What are enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts. When one substance needs to be transformed into another, nature uses enzymes to speed up the process. In our stomachs for example, enzymes break down food into tiny particles to be converted into energy. 

Our customers use enzymes as catalysts to manufacture a variety of everyday products - like sugar, beer, bread and ethanol. They are also used directly in products such as laundry detergent, where they help remove stains and enable low-temperature washing.

What are microbes? 

Microbes are living, single-celled organisms such as fungi and bacteria. Microbes are the most effective producers of enzymes. These naturally-occuring enzyme factories are at the heart of our business, and can be used in a variety of agricultural and industrial processes. 
 
Microbes give farmers a new biological toolkit to increase yields and protect crops. They can also improve livestock health, growth and feed utilization. Our customers in wastewater treatment and biogas use them to improve efficiency and as processing aids. 

 

What are enzymes?

5,000 years of everyday transformations

Our love affair with enzymes began when our Bronze Age ancestors discovered that an enzyme found in cows' stomachs could turn milk into cheese. Today, we use enzymes in everything from dairy to brewing. So next time you're enjoying a cheese pizza and a cold beer, remember to raise your glass to those Bronze Age innovators.

Improving every life, every day

Enzymes in your home aren't confined to your kitchen.  
Take a look at how enzymes improve everyday life for one family in the U.S. 

Enzymes in your life

Fashionista? Foodie? Enzymes have you covered

Enzymes make many of the products you use even better. They're good for the environment too. Enzymes can replace chemicals and minimize energy consumption. 

Milder stonewashing 

As the name suggests, the traditional way of producing stonewashed jeans is to wash them with stones. This water-intensive treatment is harsh on the jeans and the environment. It also weakens their fabric, giving them a flossy appearance.

Using enzymes instead of stones eliminates the need for multiple rinses and saves water. The results? Undamaged fabric, long-lasting quality, and that same stonewashed look.

Bakery booster 

When a loaf of bread's starch loses moisture, the bread becomes hard. Keep that softness by adding enzymes to the flour to alter the structure of the starch.  

For busy bakers, enzymes can also make dough less sticky. 

Other specialized baking enzymes help retain naturally-occurring gases in gluten. That's how bakers are able to make light, fluffy bread.

Leather softener

Natural, untreated leather is as stiff as metal. In the bating process, enzymes dissolve and wash protein components that stiffen leather. Because the bacteria in excrement produce enzymes, dog excrement was once used for this process.  

Using enzymes to remove hair and fat from animal hides reduces sulphide use by 40% and reduces water use. Replacing chemicals with enzymes cuts down on rinsing and cleaning in the leather production process.

Textile polisher 

Biopolishing enzyme treatments remove the small hairs and fuzz that protrude from the surface of yarn, leaving a smooth finish on cotton fabric. Biopolished clothes still look new after multiple washes.  

The starch used to stop yarn from breaking during weaving can also stop it from absorbing bleach and dye. Using enzymes to break down this glaze doesn't harm the textile and makes it ready for bleaching or dyeing.

More juice  

Apples turn brown and soften after you cut them as enzymes break down their fibers. It's not too appetizing if you're eating apples, but it's an advantage when juicing them. These enzymes make the fruit easier to press, giving higher yields and creating completely clear juice.  

And it's not just apples – the enzymes also work on grapes to get all their juice out without compromising the quality of that fine wine.

Transformational power

Scientific magic

Enzymes are proteins made by all living organisms and are found everywhere in nature. They are biologically active proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions in cells.

Specific action

The perfect fit

An enzyme is a large molecule but only a small part of the molecule is involved in the catalysis of biochemical reactions. This is called the active site. The enzyme and substrate fit together like a key in a lock, and only substrates with the right shape are transformed by the enzyme. This is what makes enzymes specific in their action.

A closer look at what's inside an enzyme 

Animation

Deep-down cleaning 

Watch our lipases tackle greasy stains on textiles. 

Enzymes

The quest for the perfect enzyme

Homer made the first written reference to enzymes when he wrote about cheese production around 800 B.C. We've built up a lot of knowledge since then, and now give nature a helping hand to create the perfect enzyme.

Microbes are the most effective enzyme producers. These naturally-occurring enzyme factories are at the heart of our business. 
Bacteria and fungi are the best microbes for the industrial production of enzymes. 
Our microbe collection is the first place we look for a microbe that grows quickly at mild temperatures and produces lots of the perfect enzyme. If the right microbe is not in our collection, we look for it in nature. 
Sometimes the right microbe for a specific job is impossible to find. With state-of-the art biotechnology, we can optimize the closest naturally-occurring match to produce the perfect enzyme.

The heart of our business

Bacteria and fungi are the naturally-occurring enzyme factories at the heart of our business. Most of our enzymes are produced by Aspergillus oryzae, the same fungus that has been used for thousands of years to make soy sauce. It also has a huge capacity for producing enzymes. That’s why we love it.

Why bacteria and fungi?

Enzymes are in all living things. We could collect enzymes from giraffes or Christmas trees, but we choose to collect bacteria and fungi that make enzymes. That's because bacteria and fungi are easy to grow, handle and test. You can't say the same for a giraffe.

The perfect microbe

Some bacteria or fungi are able to produce the right enzyme. Others grow fast and produce lots of enzymes. For us, the perfect microbe must do both.  We have been collecting microbes from nature since the 1960s, and now have one of the world's largest proprietary strain collections. So the first place we look for the perfect microbe is in our own collection.

Hunting high and low

Our search for samples takes us across the globe to meet our customers' needs. If the enzyme needs to function under very hot conditions, our researchers in hot spring areas are the the ones we call. The search for enzymes for cold-water washing brings us North to arctic regions. Read full story

Arctic enzymes

Russell Beard from Al Jazeera joins our scientists on the hunt for enzymes that could reduce the environmental impact of industry and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Getting it right
From search to final product
Finding the right enzyme
One soil sample can contain thousands of different microorganisms, and each microorganism can produce hundreds or thousands of different enzymes. Having the world's biggest toolbox of screening technologies makes our search for the right enzyme a little easier.
Finding the right gene
Next, we need to locate the gene that tells the microorganism to produce this enzyme. Once this gene has been isolated, our researchers can improve the enzyme in many ways.
Transferring the right gene
By transferring the gene to one of our production microorganisms, we get a microorganism that produces large quantities of the right enzyme and grows very quickly.
Finding the right balance
In our three-story fermentation tanks, the microorganism multiplies by millions - but only if we achieve the right balance of nutrients, temperature, pH and airflow. Fortunately, we have more than 70 years of experience to help us.
Doing the right thing
After fermentation we separate out the enzymes, leaving a mix of unused nutrients, water and microorganisms. We treat this to remove all living and intact microorganisms. This makes it ready for use as top-grade farm fertilizer.
Making it right for our customers
A product is only right when it's used in the right way. That's where our Technical Service team comes in. Their expert assistance helps our customers get the very best from our enzymes.
Read more

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