NCIMB Ltd kicks-off innovative enzyme technology development project with potential application in medicines and environmental remediation.

Aberdeen-based biotechnology company NCIMB has kicked-off a new research project to demonstrate novel enzyme technology with an exciting array of potential applications in the pharmaceutical, food & drink and environmental sectors. The work is being supported with a Bio-based Manufacturing in Scotland grant from Innovate UK.

The project targets the production of a molecule called cyclodextrin – something that many people will have encountered in their day-to-day lives without realising it. Cyclodextrins are natural products made from starch, using enzymes produced by bacteria, and this project focuses on the enzyme manufacture. 

Cyclodextrins are particularly useful for drug delivery and are found in a number of commonly prescribed medicines. The molecules can also be used to bind fragrances and consequently have application in products designed to both deliver and eliminate smells. For example, they are used in the manufacture of products such as tumble dryer sheets that release a scent, and cyclodextrin is one of the key ingredients in the odour eliminating product Febreze.

NCIMB’s CEO Dr Edward Green explains further: “Cyclodextrins have a ring-shaped structure made from several glucose units joined together.  They are used to trap other molecules in the centre, releasing them again where needed. These versatile molecules come in three sizes, which is an important factor in how they are used. For example, smaller rings are more selective. The ring structure can also be decorated with other molecules to change their functionality. 

“We have identified a new enzyme that produces a cyclodextrin product that is smaller than those currently available. This opens up new applications and markets, for example in bioremediation and removal of volatile organic compounds from exhaust gases. They also have wider applicability for drug delivery than those currently available.  These new applications have the potential to deliver important societal and environmental benefits”.

NCIMB manages an extensive collection of bacteria with industrial potential, that was established more than 70 years ago, and strains from the collection are supplied to researchers around the globe.  Dr Green concluded: “People are often unaware of the role microorganisms play in producing essential everyday products such as foods, medicines and the enzymes used in laundry detergents. We have only scratched the surface in terms of the ways microbes can be used to benefit mankind and tackle many of the big issues faced by society, including climate change, food security and healthy ageing, so it is incredibly lucky that somebody had the foresight to establish this collection of industrial, food and marine bacteria. The collection has expanded to include more than 10,000 strains and continues to grow with new additions from diverse sources including many proven commercial strains for industrial biotechnology.”

Get in touch if you would like to find out more about this project or our culture collection.

Dr Edward Green, CEO, NCIMB

Cyclodextrins are particularly useful for drug delivery and are found in a number of commonly prescribed medicines.

The project is funded by Innovate UK