This project will bring forward an efficient biocatalyst for the production of sialic acids. Today, the largest market is for use in the production of anti-viral drugs, but the largest future demand will most likely be as a nutritional additive, in particular to infant milk formulas, and for cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical applications.

We will optimize the enzymes for production of high-value sialic acid starting from sources containing N-acetylglucosamine, the building block of chitin. Chitin is an abundant biomass found in for example crustacean shells. One of the enzymes to be optimized is a sialic acid aldolase (NAL). This enzyme has unique properties, also facilitating the use of this enzyme alone for production of sialic acid from the cheaper substrate N-acetylglucosamine. Alternatively, the aldolases can be used in combination with with N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerases (AGEs) for production of sialic acid from N-acetylglucosamine. These processes are compared in this project financed by The Research Council of Norway, the BIOTEK2021 program.

A successful outcome of the project is NAL(s) that can utilize GlcNAc or chitin hydrolysates for production of sialic acids. We are also investigating the potential for using the enzymes in production of sialic acid derivatives with potential application as second-generation anti-infuenza drugs.

The process of biomass conversion starting from cheap chitin and ending with expensive sialic acid that have many application areas. Enzymes that can be used in production and sugar intermediates are indicated. Sialic acid has great potential as a nutritional and cosmeceutical additive, and is used as a base for synthesis of anti-viral drugs.