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Final Report Summary - AQUACAT (Tailor made lipases for synthetic catalysis in biphasic media: From poly (lactone) applications towards novel sugar esters)

“AquaCat” was an IIF project (Grant no. 301723), funded by the European Union FP7 in accordance with the strategic research agenda in the area of “biocatalytic process design”. The project started June, 2012 and ended May, 2014. Experiments were performed in Germany (Straubing) at Fraunhofer IGB, Project Group BioCat for 20 months and in France at ICEEL, Laboratory of Macromolecular Chemical Physics in Nancy for 4 months. AquaCat wanted to bring sustainable solutions to the production of two economically important commercial products; polylactone nanoparticles (Fig. 1 a & b) and sucrose fatty acid esters. Both find extensive application in the field of biomedicals, food&feed, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

AquaCat wanted to circumvent major problems in the current manufacturing processes involving the use of toxic organometallic catalysts, hazardous organic solvents, high energy consumption and the laborious multi-step work-up of nanoparticles by working in aqueous dispersions. Therefore we applied lipases (a class of enzymes, i.e. biocatalysts) to a tailored microenvironment, designed the reaction medium making lipase function as synthetic catalyst of confined organic substrates and identified the relevant parameters for industrial scale up of these processes. The general objective was to develop sustainable industrial processes to synthesize polylactones derived from ε−caprolactones of sufficiently high molar mass (> 10.000 g mol-1 ) in water for application as drug carriers and sucrose fatty acid esters having 1 to 3 fatty acid ester substitutions as bio-surfactants, respectively. This general objective can be translated into 2 more specific objectives:

1) Engineering of the aqueous biphasic system for the synthesis of poly(lactone) The basic knowledge on the lipase-catalyzed ring-opening polymerization (ROP) of lactones in water was not available before starting with AquaCat. Consequently, we had to start with a systematic study on the four keys parameters influencing the lipase-catalyzed ring-opening polymerization in aqueous medium; (1) properties of lipases, (2) properties of aqueous medium (3) qualities of lactone/water interface, and (4) properties of droplets (Fig.1 d)). ω-pentadecalactone (ω-PDL), was chosen as model substrate thanks to the ease of emulsion preparation with controlled properties. Using lipase PS (Burkhodoria cepacia lipase), the influence of interfacial properties, influence of kinetic parameters as well as the influence of percent lipase PS adsorption capacity at ω- PDL/water interface on the molar mass of poly (ω-PDL) was elucidated. The obtained results allowed the development of a model describing how the lipase PS catalyzed the ROP of ω-PDL in biphasic system. On the basis of this model we were able for the first time to synthesize oligo (ω-PDL) with a molar mass of 3557 g mol-1 in water.

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