High-throughput screening

High-throughput enzyme screening in application-specific tests.

Using high–throughput screening in directed evolution Novozymes can investigate the properties of millions of potential new enzymes each week. What is more, the tests also simulate real-life processes such as a laundry machine or cake-baking.​

Every year Novozymes makes billions of potential new enzymes that may turn into a new, revolutionizing product. Being able to establish such high numbers of enzymes makes finding the best enzymes with the right properties equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack.
However, the job can be done with the help of high-throughput screening.
Based on a thorough investigation of our customers’ needs, Novozymes’ scientists can develop a micro-scale test to investigate any enzyme activity, specificity, or stability under conditions such as heat, acidity, alkalinity, or a specific laundry detergent.

Over the last 30 years Novozymes has developed a powerful technology platform of directed molecular evolution and high throughput screening using application-specific testing. At present, each week we can test the characteristics of more than 1 million enzymes in extremely complex setups; setups that include real-life microscale tests mimicking, for example, a washing machine, a biomass-to-ethanol process, or an oven. All the tests can be performed on quantities of enzymes 5,000 to 100,000 times smaller than is required for real-life applications and in test volumes of 10–200 µl.

Recent developments allow screening in even higher numbers (millions of samples assayed per hour) and in even lower volumes, but we will always need a balance between mimicking real-life applications, precision, and throughput.

The vital step in all screening is pinpointing the right candidates, and for this we develop predictive microscale tests simulating real-life customer applications. High-throughput screening makes it possible to test vast numbers of enzyme candidates inexpensively and easily in a fast and effective way using complex and sophisticated robotics. High throughput screening can be used to screen both wild-type gene libraries and man-made libraries using the newest technology within the field of directed molecular evolution.


The combination of high throughput screening and directed molecular evolution allows Novozymes to meet the demands for enzymes in more and more specialized fields and sophisticated chemical reactions. Through customer collaborations new enzyme possibilities are found by combining our knowledge of our customers’ present and future needs with our 25+[much longer???] years of know-how in designing enzymes. Understanding customer applications down to the finer details, while at the same time understanding what makes a potent enzyme helps Novozymes to create the precise enzyme solution that the customer needs.

The target applications are often extremely complex with process parameters that cannot be directly replicated in micro-scale tests, for example the complicated breakdown of cellulose in the biomass-to-ethanol process, the agitation in a washing machine, or the mixing of dough. In each case Novozymes invents new ways of introducing similar conditions to the micro-scale tests.

Correlation of enzyme and enzyme variant performance in specific micro-scale tests and in real-life applications is ideally undertaken in collaboration with the customer, thereby ensuring that a successful enzyme product is developed. Novozymes also has larger test facilities up to semiproduction scale for most industrial enzyme applications, enabling testing of selected candidates under conditions identical to the industrial application.