Novozymes churning out new enzymes

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A good guess is that Novozymes is not widely known in the agricultural industry as a global leader in all types of industrial microorganisms and enzymes with its discovery, research, development and uses even though the company has more than 6,000 active patents.

The company has involvement in industries almost too long and complicated to list but some of them are bioenergy, wastewater treatment, food and beverages, textiles, pulp and paper, leather, household cleaning products and biopharma. But one of the fastest growing divisions is BioAg.

“Novozymes BioAg has three core technology platforms,” explained Trevor Thiessen, president of BioAg. “They are biofertility, biocontrol or biopesticides and bioyield enhancement.”

 Thiessen extensively explained the concepts behind all Novozyme technology and how the company is looking to providing innovative solutions to issues and problems in feeding the world. A select group of agricultural media heard Thiessen and a dozen other employees explain various aspects of company’s research, discovery and business activities.

One of the simplest explanations pulling together all that was talked about and shown in a tour of Davis, Calif., labs was actually provided in a brochure handed out that highlights how the Novozymes company accomplishes “bioinnovation.”

The brochure detailed operations as follows: “In a handful of soil there are around 5,000 different microorganisms. They are nature’s workhourses, recycling garbage and releasing essential products back into the environment; they also produce the enzymes and other proteins that can be used to solve problems in industries and homes all over the world.

“Using the oldest known biotechnology—fermentation—Novozymes grows microorganisms in large tanks. In 24 hours, one microorganism turns into trillions of microorganisms that all produce the enzymes and other proteins we require.”

Steve Brown, a metabolic scientist, noted that “metabolic engineering is used to create microorganisms that produce chemicals.” Once a production process is established, tanker car loads of enzymes can be produced for specific commercial uses.

Novozymes has established high throughput screening, which automates the screening process to find useable final products. Ping Yan, a scientist in charge, explained that it can be 100,000 microorganisms initially screened to find 10 or less “final hits” for advancing.

Michael Rey, head of bioinformatics, is in charge of DNA sequencing of candidates. He said, using the latest electronics and technology, a cell can be sequenced in two days at a cost of about $500 at the Davis lab. He expects cost to drop to around $160 in the near future. Seven years ago it could take three years to DNA sequence a cell, he said.

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