Press Release: Novel enzymes for green cosmetics

12.12.2017 -

Berlin/Rimini, 01 December 2017: European scientists have been advancing several complementary techniques to discover novel enzymatic biocatalysts from the analyses of hundreds of fungal and bacterial genomes to advanced genetic engineering. More than 300 compounds were synthesized through the novel green OPTIBIOCAT (Optimised esterase biocatalysts for cost-effective industrial production) bioconversions, and among these seven antioxidants identified that fulfil allergenic and safety properties. The 17 project partners from eight European countries hope that their natural biocatalysts will help pave the way for sustainable conversions to replace chemical processes currently used for the production of creams or shampoos. “New enzymes can help us to green the cosmetic sector and to offer more natural products,” said Vincenza Faraco, professor at the University of Naples and coordinator of OPTIBIOCAT, during the final project meeting which took place in mid-November at green economy trade fair ECOMONDO in Rimini, Italy.

When strolling through the supermarket aisles, it becomes apparent that an increasing number of products is labelled as “natural”, “organic” or “bio”. Consumers have developed a keen interest in knowing more about their products and the underlying production processes. That’s why companies are increasingly interested to demonstrate that they are producing in an environmentally sound manner. OPTIBIOCAT now contributes to the debate with novel anti-oxidant compounds that can be used in natural cosmetics. In contrast to traditional production methods, enzymes allow for fewer steps in the production process and lower temperatures (50-60°C) compared to chemical processes (up to 160°C). Furthermore, there is no need for the removal of by-products and catalyst residues. Enzymes can hence help us to reduce our environmental footprint, also in the cosmetic sector.

Several scientific achievements of the project, which received a total of €7 millions of EU-funding from 2013 until 2017, can be highlighted: As a result of an extensive screening process in numerous fungal genomes, OPTIBIOCAT identified 1,636 putative feruloyl (FAE) and 166 putative glucuronoyl esterases (GE) genes. In a next step, more than 550 of the enzymes corresponding to these genes were produced and 480 putative FAEs characterised according to their biochemical properties. Several of them were identified as promising biocatalyst candidates, showing activity as well as enhanced stability towards temperature or solvents. Finally, seven compounds have been selected by Greek cosmetic company KORRES for safety testing to receive complete property profiles. “So far, the results have been very promising,” says Dr. Marianna Ralli, who is the scientific affairs manager at KORRES. In a next step, the identified compounds need further safety and application studies to meet the requirements for market entry.

Additionally, a database of all the identified enzymes was set up to collect, safe and store this information beyond the end of the project. Many of the results have been published in more than 20 scientific journals by the OPTIBIOCAT partners and led to numerous conference contributions.


Please get in touch with any question you may have:

Contact Coordinator:
Prof. Vincenza Faraco
Phone: +39 081674315/679895
University of Naples “Federico II”
Complesso Universitario Monte S. Angelo Via Cintia, 4
IT-80126 Napoli, Italy

Media Contact: Laura Griestop
Phone: +49 30 2649 2158
Luetzowstr. 33-36
10785 Berlin, Germany


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