At a first glance, synthetic biology and applied biocatalysis do not seem to have much in common as they are considered two different research areas in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Synthetic biology studies the origin and development of minimal systems that comprise of the full cell machinery to maintain proliferation and metabolic pathways and looks for enhanced characteristics and traits through the design of chemically synthesized DNA. In addition, it aims at creating new building blocks for the assembly of larger synthetic biological circuits, new biological systems such as tissues or even organs as well as biological machines which are macromolecular components that carry out mechanical movement on a nanoscale.

Applied biocatalysis investigates chemical reactions by applying enzymes engineered for highest efficiency with regards to stability, catalytic activity, selectivity and substrate specificity. The combination of computational studies and  directed evolution leads to gene libraries that allow the targeted improvement of the properties of the enzymes and the conversion of cheap educts into valuable products. Process intensification by applying cascades of improved enzymes under optimized reaction conditions enables the upscaling from laboratory scale to industrial large scale.

However, a closer look reveals that synthetic biology and applied biocatalysis, as multidisciplinary fields of research, do have a lot in common. Here, engineering is key; engineering of enzymes that require a minimum of both chemical energy and building blocks to be assembled to catalyse chemical reactions in one or multiple steps under non-physiological conditions. Synthetic biology involves designing and redesigning biological systems for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities.

The Beilstein Enzymology Symposia embrace structural, computational, and biological disciplines, and bring established and young researchers  together to discuss the many and diverse roles of enzymes in biology, and to explore the limits and challenges of holistic studies that attempt to integrate microscopic views of protein function into complex biological behaviour.

This symposium takes synthetic biology and applied biocatalysis in perspective and addresses the insights in artificial biological systems, miniaturized bioreactors, high-throughput applied catalysis, structure-function relationships using cryo-EM and computational biology , the regulation and control of gene coded information transfer , and systems-wide analysis of metabolic pathways.

Under the guidance of the STRENDA Commission (www.beilstein-strenda.org), this conference series also provides a platform to present the results of this working group’s efforts, to discuss about the requirements for setting up standards in biochemistry and to address the needs making research data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. The mission of STRENDA is to establish guidelines for the reliable and accurate reporting of protein function data, and to maintain a database (STRENDA DB, www.beilstein-strenda-db.org) which stores this data after its validation on completeness and compliance with the STRENDA Guidelines.

We are looking forward to committed discussions about the latest results, approaches and methodologies presented in experimental, theoretic and bioinformatics biocatalysis.