Biodegradation; dehalogenases; industrial biotransformations; metalloenzymes.
Professor Wackett has worked to create microbial enzymes that both break down toxins in hazardous wastes and catalyze plant materials to synthesize new biofuels. In the process, he has helped develop important resources for researchers around the world.
Working with Syngenta Crop Protection and in collaboration with Prof. Michael Sadowsky, Wackett used bacterial biodegradation to carry out an environmental clean up of a large herbicide spill in South Dakota in the year 2000. By utilizing an enzyme catalyst to initiate bacterial metabolism of atrazine, the herbicide was rendered non-toxic. Further study of other enzyme catalysts lead to the bioremediation of other toxins and eventually to the development of the University of Minnesota Biocatalysis - Biodegradation Database.
With the push to develop renewable energy, Wackett has lead the search for microbial enzymes that will synthesize fuels from biologically renewable sources. Because the most desirable components of petroleum are clean-burning hydrocarbons, Wackett is investigating the microbial biosynthesis of hydrocarbons from plant material through research funded by the Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) and a Discovery Grant for Biofuels from the University of Minnesota. As part of this effort, the University of Minnesota BioFuels Database was developed to inform and foster biofuels research throughout the world.
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