Dealing with all aspects of applying biocatalysis - from gene to product - asks for people with strong interdisciplinary and communicative skills
Biocatalysis offers intriguing possibilities to improve chemical processes. Recent advances in bioinformatics and molecular biology allow engineering proteins with new functions and enzymes with improved stability, new substrate scope and even catalyzing new non-natural reactions. Academic research has developed numerous tools such as “directed evolution” that was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. To ensure that this new, potentially green technology will find wider application in industry joint efforts between academic and industrial partners is needed.
Despite the success of academic research, translation of academic knowledge into industrial application is slow. One of the bottlenecks mentioned by Swiss industry for the underuse of biocatalytic tools is the limited availability of personnel appropriately trained in chemistry as well as biotechnology1. Biocatalysis is taught at universities within different disciplines. Yet a teaching concept covering various aspects of biocatalysis is missing. CAS Biocatalysis will fill this gap.
Biocatalysis is part of our daily life for centuries. We use yeast to produce bread, beer or wine ("whole cell biocatalyst"), rennet from calf stomach to manufacture cheese ("crude enzyme preparation") and add enzymes like proteases or lipases to our washing powder to remove stains ("purified enzyme").
Biocatalysis is an active field of research. Recent developments in bioinformatics, molecular biology, biotechnology and engineering had a huge impact on the field. Efficient cloning strategies, new expression systems for heterologous genes as well as improved purification strategies decreased costs for production of biocatalysts. Immobilization techniques increases stability under process conditions, facilitate purification of products and allow reuse of the biocatalyst. New cofactor recycling strategies and biocascades improve efficiency of processes and reduce process costs. Advances in DNA mining, protein modeling as well as efficient mutagenesis (directed evolution) and state-of-the-art screening strategies allow to design and produce enzymes for a specific application within a reasonable time span.
Biocatalysis is an interdisciplinary field of research needing people with competences in a variety of disciplines and good communication skills. Replacing a critical step in chemical synthesis needs interaction with several parties: chemists to specify the problem, molecular biologists to identify and/ or engineer a suitable enzyme, engineers to produce the enzyme and to set up the new chemical process. Besides this lawyers need to check restrictions and last but not least economists need to find out whether the new process is economical.
Further education at tertiary level offers three degrees:
- MAS (≥ 60 ECTS credits)
- DAS (≥ 30 ECTS credits)
- CAS )10-15 ECTS credits
One ECTS credit corresponds to 15 to 30 working hours
For further information check at swissuniversities
Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) are independent degrees within the further education at the tertiary level corresponding to 10 – 15 ECTS and may be part of a DAS or MAS degree (modular system).
The degree programs are open to university graduates asking for specialization and in-depths studies within the field they had studied or interested in new-orientation and further expertise in a field related to the field they studied previously. Admission of professionals with comparable competencies and with a long-term practical experience in a related area "sur dossier" is possible.
CAS Biocatalysis consists of three modules which will cover the following areas:
- Basic biocatalysis and examples of industrial application (theory and experiments).
- Legal/ economic aspects of biocatalytic processes (theory and case study).
- Design of biocatalysts and evaluation of performance (theory and experiments).