ChemSusChem 2022 Perspective

The role and power of biocatalysis in sustainable chemistry has been continuously brought forward step by step to its present outstanding position. The problem-solving capabilities of biocatalysis have been realized by numerous substantial achievements in biology, chemistry and engineering. Advances and breakthroughs in the life sciences and interdisciplinary cooperation with chemistry have clearly accelerated the implementation of biocatalytic synthesis in modern chemistry. Resource-efficient biocatalytic manufacturing processes have already provided numerous benefits to sustainable chemistry as well as customer-centric value creation in the pharmaceutical, food, flavor, fragrance, vitamin, agrochemical, polymer, specialty, and fine chemical industries. Biocatalysis can make significant contributions not only to manufacturing processes, but also to the design of completely new value-creation chains. Biocatalysis can now be considered as a key enabling technology to implement sustainable chemistry.

ChemSusChem 2022 Special Issue Biocatalysis

The tremendous scientific and technological advances in the discovery, development, and production of biocatalysts, and in understanding their structure–function relationships have driven biocatalytic applications. Furthermore, the possibility to adapt enzymes to the specific conditions of industrial processes (high substrate loadings, high efficiency, severe reaction conditions), combined with their excellent chemo-, regio-, and stereoselectivities has stimulated research and applications in this field. As a consequence, many biocatalytic reactions have already been implemented at industrial level, and many others are in the pipeline to be utilized at large scale in the coming years with numerous promising cases in research and development.

Importantly, enzyme-catalyzed reactions for sustainable chemistry can now be developed and established by applying the modern methodologies and tools of biocatalysis, which combine high efficiency and environmentally friendly conditions. The globally accumulated knowledge, methodologies and innovation potential of biocatalysis across a wide range of molecular, engineering, and practical dimensions provide a tremendous transformative power for a truly sustainable chemistry, for a thriving chemical industry for the 21st century and beyond, and for tackling the current challenges for a healthy planet.

A knowledge base of characterized enzyme functions can be of great value, especially in biosphere-related planetary boundaries such as the biochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorus, or the loss of biodiversity leading to the disappearance of living organisms with unique capabilities. Addressing the increasing relevance of biocatalysis for sustainability, this Special Issue aims to reflect current important topics with respect to enzyme identification, optimization, and application in synthetic chemical reactions. Some contributions provide updated reviews and conceptual ideas that pinpoint the connection of biocatalysis with the Green Chemistry principles and the future sustainability of the chemical industries, with an emphasis on the importance of providing reliable environmental and economic metrics for the bioprocesses of the future. The potential use of biogenic resources in future sustainable processes is highlighted, and how biocatalysis can contribute to their valorization, given the outstanding selectivity that enzymes display (e. g., the use of glycerol or fatty acid derivatives as substrates, plastic effluent digestion, or furan chemistry). The breadth of application areas of biocatalysis in sustainable chemistry is illustrated by contributions covering the synthesis of chemicals, chemical building blocks, polymers and biopolymers, flavors and fragrances. Moreover, the applications of biocatalysis in the pharmaceutical (steroids, drug–antibody conjugates) and food industries (milk oligosaccharides production) are also discussed. Biocatalysis involves not only the molecular sciences, but also the engineering and scaling of bioprocesses, such as oxyfunctionalization, alkane valorization, options related to cell-free versus whole cell bioprocesses, and fermentative procedures, applications in fuel cells, or the setup of continuous-flow systems.

Overall, this Special Issue brings together biocatalytic contributions from various areas of sustainable chemistry and illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of biocatalysis and the diversity of topics and fields for which its application can both create value and avoid destruction. We sincerely hope that this Special Issue will inspire researchers worldwide to adopt new applications involving biocatalysis, to create novel synthetic avenues towards a more sustainable and efficient chemical industry. We thank all the experts from across the world for their fine contributions, as well as the editorial staff at ChemSusChem, for making this Special Issue possible

Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020 Conference Report Expanding the Bioeconomy

For the first time, the third Global Bioeconomy Summit organized by the International Advisory Council on Global Bioeconomy (IACGB) was held in an interactive and virtual format from the 16th to 20th of November 2020. The Summit digitally brought together around 3000 representatives from politics, science, civil society and the business sector and from more than 50 countries to discuss the latest developments and challenges in the global bioeconomy. The international character of this year’s Summit was strengthened by the guidance of five official partners, representing the European Union, Japan, the ASEAN region, Eastern Africa, and Latin America & the Caribbean. The Summit week kicked off with a three-day (16th–18th) interactive workshop marathon, consisting of 12 workshops and over 50 breakout sessions. From the more than 50 workshop proposals received in an open call, bioeconomy stakeholders from around the world organized workshops covering a highly diverse range of topics from bioinnovation and economy to biodiversity protection and climate action. The plenary agenda (19th and 20th) focused on innovation in a sustainable bioeconomy and the bioeconomy’s role in addressing global crises, and spurring bioinnovations, markets and consumer approaches. More than 100 high-level speakers contributed to the event, including ministers and government representatives from partner countries, the European Union, Japan, the ASEAN region, Eastern Africa, and Latin America & the Caribbean, international policy experts from the United Nations and European Commission, and leading international personalities and change-makers from science, industry, and NGOs. This year a number of special elements guided the virtual program, including a digital bioeconomy exhibition and media corner, virtual roundtables for networking, entertaining and informative video clips from projects, start-ups, and corporations from the bioeconomic sector, and an evening reception with presentations emerging food start-ups. With the goal of bringing together an eclectic and geographically diverse group of young people to act as ambassadors for the bioeconomy, this year, the IACGB selected eight Youth Champions. In addition, key summit outputs, the Global Bioeconomy Policy Report (IV) and Global Expert Survey on sustainability governance for the bioeconomy were launched. Contributions to the Summit came from every corner of the world and with one common message: the bioeconomy has achieved significant progress in recent years in moving us towards a new economy. Nearly 60 countries around the world are pursuing bioeconomy-related policies, adapted to local conditions, and using sustainable high-tech solutions across sectors. Throughout the summit, the importance of global cooperation for sustainability and the innovations needed to drive this forward were strongly emphasized. In its Communiqué, the IACGB issued an urgent appeal to accelerate the global economic system into a sustainable biobased system. The Council highlighted exploiting the potential of life sciences, digitization and their interlinkages and argued that the promotion of jobs in the bioeconomy is an opportunity that needs new educational programs. Further priorities were the mobilization of financial resources for the development of the bioeconomy, more involvement of industry and business, resilient value chains, and to involve consumers much more closely through information and incentives. The Council made clear that the Bioeconomy Summit should continue to be held every two years. The first summits were organized by Germany in 2015 and 2018. With the dynamics of the bioeconomy having now increased worldwide, it provides an opportunity to take the summit to other regions of the world.

CHIMIA Special Issue 05/2020

The CHIMIA Special Issue vol. 74, 05/2020 was published as a tribute to former SKB Member Oreste Ghisalba, a biotechnology pioneer, who used his knowledge, power, and convictions to drive the development of the biotechnology sector in Switzerland. The 15 contributions to this Special Issue on Building Bridges between Chemistry and Biotechnology The contributions in this special issue bring us back to the origins and large footprint of Oreste’s activities at Ciba-Geigy and later Novartis central research laboratories, as expert of the Swiss National Science Program, the CTI (now Innosuisse), Swiss Coordination Committee Biotechnology (SKB), Swiss Biotech Association, Swiss Industrial Biocatalysis Consortium, The Culture Collection of Switzerland, SPP Biotech and many more.