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Brain as a visual connection to epilepsy
The pharmaceutical industry has had to resort to rather inefficient, environmentally harmful chemical synthesis routes for the production of the active ingredient levetiracetam, a drug which is used to treat epilepsy. A consortium led by acib has now developed a chemoenzymatic manufacturing route that promises twice the yield of current production methods while being environmentally friendly. The production method could be ready for industrial use in a year’s time.
vanilla flower

Enzymes are playing the first violin, the cell is hosting a perfectly coordinated orchestra and reserachers are the composers? Instead of sounds they produce fragrances? Our musical thought experiment demonstrates the complex production processes of biotechnology with aromatics as an example.


Enzymes are the tiny helpers of industrial biotechnology. Despite their microscopic size, they need to be tough and diligent because we want them to catalyze a broad range of reactions, ideally with the speed of light for ever after. In reality, however, many enzymes are like sensitive creatures, who need most careful attention and special treats to get their nicest behavior. Otherwise they might fade away like a tender flower in the blinking sun… and send the biotechnologists into terrible trouble. One strategy to find frugal enzymes is to look at thermophilic organisms. They sometimes harbor a treasure of more stable proteins because they are used to withstand somewhat unfriendly conditions such as high temperatures.


Some plants protect themselves with cyanide against voracious beetles, caterpillars or cattle, who want to nibble their delicious looking leaves. Everyone knows that cyanide is really toxic: In Agatha Christies murder stories the murderers take their victim’s breath with ‘sparkling cyanide’: a bit of innocent looking white powder potassium cyanide mixed into sparkling wine. Plants produce this poison with the help of enzymes when the plant is chewed.

Flavors and fragrances are constant companions in our daily life. We find them in food and in cosmetics, and of course, the demand for natural ingredients instead of chemicals is increasing. A special group of enzymes allows us to produce these valuable compounds from raw materials.