top of page
Biotech Stories, News & Events

Similar Stories from FIB

Biotechnology: Charting a Course for a Sustainable Bioeconomy
17/06/24
Biotechnology: Charting a Course for a Sustainable Bioeconomy
Orion is developing the Finnish life science industry in a unique collaboration project
03/06/24
Orion is developing the Finnish life science industry in a unique collaboration project
DelSiTech Signs Significant Licensing Agreement with Global Pharmaceutical Company
23/05/24
DelSiTech Signs Significant Licensing Agreement with Global Pharmaceutical Company
Food from microbes - new boom in biotechnology
09/05/24
Food from microbes - new boom in biotechnology

AI assisted enzyme design for improved bioplastics

Fossil-based plastics have become a ubiquitous part of our lives, from the products we use on a daily basis to the infrastructure we depend on. However, the negative environmental impact of plastics cannot be ignored. Non-biodegradable plastics end up polluting our oceans and causing harm to marine life, among other environmental problems. To address this issue, researchers are working to develop sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics.



One promising approach to creating biodegradable plastics is the use of bioplastics, which are derived from renewable sources and produced by microbes. Microbial production enables the use of side streams as feedstock and thus would not further deplete natural resources.



The demand for new bioplastics is surging and researchers like VTT's Tuula Tenkanen, at the Centre for Young Synbio Scientists, are working to further improve their properties.


"Conventional plastics are not biodegradable, which means that when they enter the environment, they accumulate and cause problems like the death of marine animals," Tenkanen explains. "Therefore, we need new alternatives with similar properties, but which would be biodegradable and we are aiming to improve this area.

Tenkanen is using synthetic biology to develop biobased polymers known as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). PHAs can be composed of a wide variety of monomers, and the monomer composition determines the properties of the PHA. By using different monomers, researchers can create plastics with a wide range of properties.


One of the challenges of creating PHAs with specific properties is the need for efficient and specific biosynthesis. This is where synthetic biology comes in. Tenkanen and her team are using AI to design new enzymes to synthesize PHAs.


"We are aiming to create new-to-nature PHA synthases using the help of AI. Specifically, we are using a variational auto-encoder, which is a generative deep learning model that can be used to generate new data that resembles the training data. In this case, we have used around 10,000 natural PHA synthases and also some lipases to train the model."

Tenkanen's ultimate goal is to create bioplastics that have similar properties to conventional plastics, but with the added benefit of being biodegradable. However, she also sees her research as an opportunity to explore the intersection of AI and enzyme design.

"We are not only aiming to produce PHAs with desired substrate specificity, but also our aim is to learn about using deep learning and enzyme design. And we hope that we can use this knowledge for the design of other enzymes too."

Overall, synthetic biology offers researchers new tools to accelerate the green transition, and Tenkanen believes that it has a crucial role to play in replacing fossil fuel-based chemistry. 


"We need to find ways to replace fossil fuel-based chemistry," she says. "And I think that synthetic biology has a very important role in that."

コメント


bottom of page