Arzeda produces 2 keystone molecules for Amyris-DARPA project

November 4, 2016 |

At ABLC Next in California, Arzeda reached a major technical milestone with Amyris as a part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Technology Investment Agreement. Arzeda’s high-throughput, automated pipeline for protein engineering and pathway discovery has been validated by the production of two keystone molecules which will now be further optimized by Amyris. These two molecules are industrially important as dyes, food ingredients and pharmaceutical intermediates, but their current manufacture involves the use of highly toxic and carcinogenic substances such as cyanide and benzene.

The current manufacturing process for these molecules presents occupational health hazards, is energy-intensive and leads to environmental damage through the discharge of toxic effluents. With the Arzeda designed synthetic organism, production by fermentation could readily result in a more sustainable, non-toxic and safer process. Moreover, further derivatization could yield new, healthier nutritional food ingredients with improved performance.

Under this DARPA-funded TIA, led by Amyris, Arzeda is developing a high-throughput automated pipeline for the computational design of novel enzymes and pathways for the production of novel molecules in a variety of fermentation hosts. Amyris leverages its world-class high-throughput strain construction and optimization to validate and further optimize the resulting synthetic organisms to industrially relevant levels.  The next steps in the project are to produce more molecules for testing and to scale the technology to produce commercial quantities of molecules that are shown to have industrial application.

“Arzeda’s computational design and synthetic biology technologies for protein design and pathway prediction can now leverage natural fermentation to produce molecules previously only produced through organic chemistry,” said Alexandre Zanghellini, co-founder and CEO of Arzeda.  “We can also optimize them in ways not accessible to the synthetic chemist, creating the next generation of products with improved performance. We look forward to working with Amyris to further develop this important technology.”

“These two keystone molecules resulting from Arzeda designs have the potential to be a step change for small molecule production,” said Joel Cherry, President of R&D at Amyris.  “Their successful commercial production would allow a safer and lower cost alternative to current chemical syntheses, and further demonstrate that biology is a preferred alternative to existing industrial chemistry.”

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