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Carbohydrate-Active enZyme (CAZyme) for waste biomass polymers hydrolysis


Cellulosic biomass is an abundant renewable resource with an estimated 56 billion tons of carbon dioxide fixed by terrestrial plants into ~200 billion tons of plant biomass each year worldwide. Humans utilize currently only 2% of this plant biomass each year. Therefore, there is significant potential to sustainably utilize waste biomass to produce fuels, chemicals and materials. Plant biomass (i.e., cell walls) is composed mostly of insoluble glycan (~60-70%) and aromatic (~15-30%) polymers. However, biomass is ‘recalcitrant’ towards conversion to soluble sugar and phenolic intermediates that can readily be upgraded into bespoke chemicals.

We utilize the biochemical conversion platform for biomass waste upcycling that encompasses a low-severity thermochemical pretreatment (to increase substrate accessibility) followed by enzymatic & microbial bioprocessing (to hydrolyze biopolymers into monomers and/or desired final bioproducts). We are interested in engineering CAZymes (e.g., cellulases and hemicellulases) that can efficiently deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars. We use computational protein design and high-throughput screening approaches (i.e., design-build-test-learn) to engineer catalytically enhanced and thermally stable CAZymes.


Protein engineering for waste plastic polymers upcycling ​

Plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are popular polyester-based polymers often used in textiles and as single-use packaging materials, with more than 56 million tons of PET produced annually worldwide. However, climate change exacerbated by the production of fossil-derived plastics and widespread pollution of plastics in terrestrial/aquatic ecosystems has grown into a major global issue. We are engineering enzymes capable of efficiently hydrolyzing PET, and other plastic wastes derived from fossil or sugar-based renewable sources, into monomers for upcycling plastics via fermentative pathways into desired products.