Codexis’ technology enables solutions for cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally sound production of pharmaceuticals, transportation fuels, and industrial chemicals, reports David Anton, Ph.D., vp, bioindustrials R&D. The company focuses on biocatalysts—enzymes or microbes that initiate or accelerate chemical reactions. At Codexis, biocatalysis is used to design faster, less costly, and greener chemistry-based manufacturing processes in the life science and energy industries.
According to Dr. Anton, Codexis’ technology makes it possible to customize enzymes capable of selectively and efficiently performing a desired chemical process that doesn’t exist in nature.
“DNA shuffling is part of a directed evolution program to manipulate the DNA blueprint of an enzyme,” explains Dr. Anton. “Starting with a diverse set of genes that encode for variations of the enzyme catalyst, Codexis recombines or shuffles these DNA sequences to create new variants. Using sophisticated high-throughput screening methods, novel biocatalysts with desired improvements are selected and these improved variants can then be put through the process again until a highly efficient biocatalyst is created that meets or exceeds targeted performance characteristics.”
Dr. Anton adds that bioinformatics plays a big role in creating biofuels. “The company’s technology platform includes millions of mutated enzymes and a dozen or more different reaction platforms. We can screen compounds against actual enzymes and our databases.”
Bioinformatics capabilities allow Codexis’ scientists to accelerate its directed evolution process by predicting the amount of gene shuffling and specific mutations needed, along with the likelihood and length of time for reaching a target.
“I am a practical person,” continues Dr. Anton. “Academic pursuits are all well and good, but biofuels are something that we need today, and this is a good way to put the knowledge and tools to use. We are doing something that the market needs. When we are successful, there will be billions of gallons of fuel, and it will be renewable.”
The company has aggressive milestones with Shell, its partner in developing next-generation nonfood transportation biofuels, and “we’ve been meeting them. We opened a new facility in Hungary earlier this year focused on large-scale fermentation. There is excellent academic infrastructure support in that region that supports our efforts. This is key in driving this to scale and moving this forward,” Dr. anton adds.