Plastic degradation by designer enzymes

This project is made possible by generous funding from FORMAS and Energimyndigheten.

The overarching goal of this project is to enable mild biocatalytic depolymerization of textile fibers and plastics through innovative biotechnology methods. As nature did not yet have had the time to evolve microbes and their enzymes to depolymerize artificial man-made materials, enzyme design and engineering programs are urgently needed to enable recycling of inert materials. We are developing enzyme engineering programs based on understanding the dynamical aspects of biocatalytic plastic depolymerization.


Our research could enable the utilization of textile and plastic waste as resource to be re-used by transformation into functional monomers, even from blends.

Life is easy to identify, but remarkably hard to define. One fundamental property of living organisms is the order they create in their environment through evolved metabolic pathways, organized structures and self-replication which are basal energy-consuming processes dependent on enzymes that accelerate the chemistry of life up to 10^26-fold. Fundamental and organizational tasks, for instance energy conversion and information processing, would take millions – or even billions – of years in the absence of enzymes, thus representing timescales that would be incompatible with life.

The Syrén lab works with computer simulations and bioinformatics, as well as experimental biotechnology and protein engineering to enhance our fundamental understanding of enzymes, their mechanisms and evolution at the atomistic level. Towards reaching this goal we bridge fundamental chemical principles with state-of-the art biotechnology. Through transdisciplinary scientific methods we are developing novel enzyme engineering strategies for applications within biopolymer science and for the generation of superior biopharmaceuticals and fine chemicals from renewable sources.

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