Carbios accelerates its enzyme optimization with microfluidic tech

Professor Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer at Carbios
Professor Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer at Carbios

Carbios, a firm in the development and industrialization of biological technologies to reinvent the life cycle of plastics and textiles, has accelerated its enzyme screening process with a microfluidic technology developed in partnership with the Paul Pascal Research Centre (a joint research unit of the CNRS and the University of Bordeaux, which specializes in microfluidics).

What is the market offering of microfluidic technology?

This cutting-edge technology enables the screening of millions of enzymes in just one day, speeding up the process to optimize enzymes breaking down PET. This competitive advantage enables Carbios to reduce the time between the R&D phase and the production of its proprietary enzymes, and hence to develop concrete solutions to plastic pollution even faster.

Microfluidics: the science of droplets

Microfluidics allows the production of devices handling very small amounts of liquid. Each droplet generated can be considered as an independent microreactor having a volume in the picolitre range of 10-12 liters as well as containing a particular enzyme whose PET depolymerization activity will be screened. These droplets move through some analysis units the size of a microchip allowing ultra-high throughput screening of 150 enzymes per second.

Previously, conventional robotic systems allowed screening in microplate format with a volume in the milliliter range of about 10-3 liters and with rates of around one enzyme per minute.

The use of microfluidics to screen for more efficient or new enzymes will become widely adopted in the future, accelerating the development of bioprocessing. Currently used by Carbios for the development of its PET depolymerization process, microfluidics should be used to accelerate the development of new enzymes for other types of plastic such as polyamide.

Carbios researchers specialized in microfluidics

Microfluidic processes require special expertise. Currently, two researchers at Carbios are dedicated to microfluidics and based in the cooperative laboratory with TBI3 hosted by INSA4 Toulouse. Alexandra Tauzin, Researcher in Enzyme Engineering and Microfluidics, and Alexandre Gilles, Engineer specialized in robotics, work with the Paul Pascal Research Center.

What were the key remarks about Carbios microfluidics?

“Since having applied microfluidics to our screening process over a year ago, we have analyzed millions of enzymes, which would have taken years. This tech gives access to a large variety of enzymes in record time. Microfluidics has enabled us to optimize the enzyme presented in 2020 in the journal Nature, and it is this optimized enzyme that will be used in our first industrial reference unit in 2025,” said Prof. Alain Marty, Chief Scientific Officer at Carbios.

“Microfluidics is already widely used in medical diagnostics to analyze biological samples. When Carbios approached us to use it for new industrial applications, this was a first. We are very pleased to develop new methods using the power of microfluidics for an environmental cause such as the reduction of plastic pollution,” said Jean-Christophe Baret, Professor at the University of Bordeaux and team leader at the Paul Pascal Research Center hosted by the CNRS.


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