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Reducing plastic waste with AI and enzymes

Protein Evolution, a young biotech company that utilises biological processes to promote the transition to a lower-carbon, circular economy for materials and plastics, has announced the launch of new projects. The first will build on the company’s artificial intelligence expertise to create enzymes that break down plastic and textile waste; the second will streamline the methods for manufacturing those enzymes at scale. Protein Evolution has developed a process that uses AI to design novel enzymes to transform various types of polyester waste back into the building blocks of new polyester, explained Maren Wehrs, director of bioprocess development of Protein Evolution.

The technology developed by Protein Evolution is the first in the U.S. to use enzymes as a catalyst to successfully produce new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from polyester textile waste. It yields a PET materials that is indistinguishable from the petroleum-derived virgin alternative, but with a far lower carbon footprint.

"Identifying and cost-effectively producing highly catalytic enzymes to transform waste into new products has the potential to significantly reduce industry's reliance on petroleum," said Jay Konieczka, Protein Evolution’s CTO.

The company will use AI and machine learning-enhanced search and optimisation to accelerate the development and design of new classes of enzymes to break down plastic.

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