Green enzymes for chemical manufacturing
Aralez Bio uses engineered enzymes to make valuable chemical products and to expand the scope of products that can be produced bio-renewably. With directed evolution, it trains enzymes to perform novel chemistry with superb selectivity and efficiency, merging the green character of nature’s biosynthetic mechanisms with the versatility of traditional chemistry.
After working for several years in process development at Amgen, biochemist Christina Boville earned her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, where she designed drugs that target the innate immune system. Her work to promote laboratory sustainability earner her the 2016 Campus Sustainability Green Labs award. After receiving the Resnick Prize Sustainability Fellowship, Boville moved to Caltech, where she worked with chemical engineer and (later) Nobel laureate Frances Arnold. There, along with postdoctoral researcher David Romney, Boville developed the tryptophan synthase platform that Aralez Bio uses today. Arnold, Boville, Romney and biotech industry veteran Lori Giver co-founded Aralez Bio in 2019.
The technology Aralez Bio uses was developed in Frances Arnold’s research group at Caltech, and has attracted over $1 million in research funding from the NIH, the Rothenberg Innovation Initiative (RI2), and the Jacobs Institute for Molecular Engineering for Medicine.
There is an unmet need for efficient, sustainable methods for chemical synthesis. Chemical manufacturing is one of the most energy intensive industries in America, and generates a huge amount of waste. Case studies have shown that shifting to enzymatic processes reduces energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, and decreases production costs without sacrificing quality. Additionally, enzymatic processes are safer than chemical approaches that may require explosive hydrogen gas under high pressure or toxic cyanide salts. Aralez Bio enzymes will enable the manufacture of useful chemicals using bio-renewable materials, and with water as the only byproduct.
Despite successful examples of industrial enzymes in manufacturing, only two percent of the world’s chemicals are produced bio-renewably. In part, that’s because biological systems are limited to chemical reactions that occur in nature. Aralez Bio will initially focus on manufacturing extremely useful, chemical building blocks called noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs). Although common in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and biological probes, many ncAAs remain challenging to produce with high quality and low energy inputs. Aralez has engineered a biocatalytic platform for making nearly 100 different ncAAs, in a single step, from readily available precursors, and with water as the only reaction byproduct.
Potential for Impact
Customers are looking for greener and less-expensive alternatives to the current synthetic chemical routes to ncAAs, which require multiple steps that use catalysts based on rare metals, generate a substantial amount of waste, and have low overall yields. Aralez uses proprietary, new-to-nature enzymes to make diverse chemicals with maximum efficiency. These enzymes will create new, more efficient paths to manufacturing useful chemicals. Aralez envisions a future where many products we use everyday are manufactured bio-renewably, sustainably, and at low cost.
cboville [at] aralezbio [dot] com
Photo by Louis Reed