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York Chemists awarded nearly £750k by BBSRC

Posted on 3 June 2014

Professors Gideon Davies and Paul Walton have recently been awarded nearly £750,000 by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for a study called “Dissecting and Exploiting Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenases”.

The aim of this grant is to study how enzymes isolated from fungi and bacteria can be used to digest and breakdown polysaccharides, including cellulose from plants and chitin from insects/crustaceans.  These catalysts are at the vanguard of biofuel industries which have the goal of harnessing complex polysaccharides as a biofuel source.  As part of this work the researchers will discover new enzymes with diverse functions, study their three-dimensional structures and crucially dissect their highly unusual dependence on metals such as copper for their catalytic ability.  They will then use the emerging area of "synthetic biology" to design completely novel catalysts using components not found naturally in nature.  This work will provide the community with insight into the function and action of these catalysts and provide a foundation for their exploitation in the biofuel and other industries.