Today, we’re in Marseille, visiting Gene & Green TK, a biotech that is developing enzymes that degrade insecticides and chemical warfare agents.
Mission: Gene & Green’s enzymes are produced by hyperthermophilic microorganisms that live in environments with extremely high temperatures. The enzymes degrade toxic compounds in insecticides and chemical warfare agents.
Furthermore, Gene & Green’s enzymes could treat bacterial infections as well. Bacteria use small molecules to communicate with each other and protect themselves from a patient’s immune system. Gene & Green’s enzymes disrupt these processes by breaking down the molecules used by the bacteria to communicate. Thus, the technology could be used as an alternative to antibiotics.
The enzymes are robust and resistant to high temperatures, solvents, sterilization, long term storage, and detergents. So far, Gene & Green has tested its technology as an alternative to antibiotics in various preclinical models, including a model of human skin. The company is developing coatings of its enzymes to limit bacterial infections in wounds, and hopes to start clinical trials for its technology by next year.
What we think: Despite the extracted enzymes having a wide range of potential uses, such as in creating lactose-free milk and detergents for washing clothes, not many extremophile microorganisms have been successfully used in large scale biotech applications. This is in no small part due to the difficulty of extracting them from extremophile microorganisms outside of their natural extreme conditions.
Four notable examples of extremophile enzymes used in industry are the heat-resistant DNA polymerases used in the DNA-amplification technique PCR such as those made by Thermofisher, enzymes used to make biofuels, Deinove’s use of carotenoids in the food and cosmetic industries, and Chilean biotech Biosigma’s microorganisms used in mining to extract metals from ores.
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