Awards and recognition

UBC named partner in national Industrial Biocatalysis Network

Research Investigates Use Of Biomass Resources To Replace Petrochemicals

The University of British Columbia is part of a new research initiative aimed at upgrading the sustainability of Canada’s industrial sector by replacing its lifeblood — petrochemicals — with green alternatives.

UBC, Concordia University and the University of Toronto make up the Industrial Biocatalysis Network (IBN). The creation of IBN was announced today by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). It is a five-year, $5 million program, part of the federal government’s Strategic Network Grants.

Just as the oil industry splits its raw material into thousands of other chemicals used in industry and manufacturing, IBN aims to transform Canada’s abundant biomass resources from forests and agriculture, into valuable biochemicals.

Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry researcher Harry Brumer, UBC’s principal investigator with IBN, describes his role as one of discovery and development in the science of biocatalysts.

Biocatalysts are enzymes vital to the normal functioning of all living things. In the global carbon cycle, biocatalysts are essential for the production and breakdown of plant biomass.

“We are searching organisms in our environment for natural biocatalysts, that on their own or in ensembles, could one day replace the unsustainable processes now required for industrial chemical and materials manufacturing,” said Brumer.