Biocatalysis – A solution to prevent resource dissipation and environmental pollution
The tremendously fast advancements in the fields of molecular biology and biotechnology which made customised bio-catalysts available on industrial scale lead to the successful implementation of many biotechnological processes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. A broad variety of enzyme classes is used to catalyse multiple kinds of conversions which were formerly carried out by classical chemical means. Initially, chemists were mainly interested in using bio-catalysis as a new tool in the kit of synthetic strategies developed during the last two centuries. Reduced production costs and reduced emissions were appreciated side-effects. Today the mandatory need for completely new synthetic approaches caused by the increasing scarcity of resources and the growing challenges due to environmental pollution is boosting bio-catalysis to a new level. Technologies like metabolic engineering, systems biology and bioinformatics are used to identify sustainable sources for crucial compounds and materials which are no longer based on fossil resources.
When the scientific community started to investigate the application of enzymes in the organic synthesis the expectations were very high. A completely new synthetic chemistry without organic solvents, without heavy metals and eliminating environmental pollution seemed to be within reach. Since then a noteworthy number of bio-catalytic processes has found its way into industrial application (1-4). However, the main benefit of bio-catalysis chemists appreciated and still appreciate is its treasure chest of synthetic alternatives. Where chemical methods fail, enzymes can be found that exhibit the needed regio- and stereoselectivity or the high tolerance of multiple functionalities. Today the challenges we are facing due to the increasing global industrialisation and the increasing global p