Welcome to the Home of the Biocatalysis Initiative
The University of Minnesota has a long tradition and world-class expertise in the science of biocatalysis, the use of biological catalysts and processes to transform plant material into useful products. Biocatalysis enables renewable resources, such as forests, grasslands, and the wheat and corn raised by farmers, to become the new raw materials for our production and energy needs. Some biocatalytic processes - such as brewing - have been employed on an industrial scale for millennia, and others of great importance - such as penicillin production - have been devised within the last century. However, it is only now that modern collaborative approaches to the biological, chemical, engineering, and information sciences are making possible a broad-ranging understanding and utilization of biocatalysis. Given Minnesota's scientific strengths, agricultural resources, and companies active in exploiting biocatalytic processes, the University has positioned itself as a hub of biocatalysis-related research. This provides a resource to academics and biocatalysis-based industry.
A critical element of the President's Interdisciplinary Initiative on Biocatalysis is the development of a strong interdisciplinary research program in biocatalysis that will build new research clusters in two areas: Industrial Biocatalysis and Chemical Biotechnology. Both of these areas rest on a common platform of chemical and biochemical science, genetics, chemical engineering (including microbial and bio-based products engineering), genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics.
Industrial Biocatalysis includes:
Chemical Biotechnology includes:
Biocatalysis differs from standard industrial chemistry and chemical engineering in that the biochemical transformations typically proceed under less extreme temperature conditions, require little or no petroleum-based energy and raw material, are more environmentally benign, and can be designed to produce remarkably complex products with great specificity and minimal toxic byproducts.