Role of Biocatalysis in Sustainable Chemistry

Roger A Sheldon*, John M. Woodley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Based on the principles and metrics of green chemistry and sustainable development, biocatalysis is both a green and sustainable technology. This is largely a result of the spectacular advances in molecular biology and biotechnology achieved in the past two decades. Protein engineering has enabled the optimization of existing enzymes and the invention of entirely new biocatalytic reactions that were previously unknown in Nature. It is now eminently feasible to develop enzymatic transformations to fit predefined parameters, resulting in processes that are truly sustainable by design. This approach has successfully been applied, for example, in the industrial synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients. In addition to the use of protein engineering, other aspects of biocatalysis engineering, such as substrate, medium, and reactor engineering, can be utilized to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness and, hence, the sustainability of biocatalytic reactions. Furthermore, immobilization of an enzyme can improve its stability and enable its reuse multiple times, resulting in better performance and commercial viability. Consequently, biocatalysis is being widely applied in the production of pharmaceuticals and some commodity chemicals. Moreover, its broader application will be further stimulated in the future by the emerging biobased economy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Reviews
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)801–838
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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