Protein Evolution, Inc. and Basecamp Research are developing novel enzymes to break down difficult-to-recycle plastic and textile waste and solve a major bottleneck in the fashion industry.

A collaboration between Protein Evolution, Inc., a biological recycling company working to decarbonise plastic production, and Basecamp Research, biodiversity data experts for AI biodesign, has been expanded around enzyme development to help eliminate global polyurethane and polyamide (nylon) waste.

Protein Evolution’s Biopure™ technology uses AI-designed enzymes to break down polyester waste and transform it into the building blocks of new polyester. By leveraging Basecamp Research’s biodiversity mapping system, Protein Evolution will unlock previously inaccessible enzymes that target polyurethane and polyamide waste.

These complex materials significantly hamper the pursuit of circularity in both the fashion industry and several other sectors. Polyurethane, commonly found in products like spandex, mattresses, sofas, car seats, and insulation panels, poses a substantial recycling challenge. Similarly, polyamide is used in athleisure, fishing nets, and various other technical products. Together, these materials account for a notable 10 percent of global plastic production. Their complex composition makes them notoriously difficult to recycle, leading to their accumulation in landfills and incinerators.

“Up until now, the biological recycling of polyamide and polyurethane waste has only been explored in the lab. This collaboration with Basecamp Research will change that,” said Connor Lynn, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Protein Evolution, Inc.

“Our Biopure technology provides a viable solution for petrochemical companies, manufacturers and brands as we work to meet global decarbonisation goals and lessen the burden of fashion waste on our planet.”

The strategic collaboration between Protein Evolution and Basecamp Research will focus on designing novel enzymes that can break down the long chemical chains of polyurethane and nylon into their constituent precursor molecules. In addition to being fully circular, textile and plastic products made from these recycled ingredients will have a significantly lower carbon footprint, while maintaining the quality and strength of virgin plastic.

“We’re thrilled to be a foundational technology partner for Protein Evolution’s ambitious vision for a decarbonized plastics industry, which has already captured the attention of numerous leading brands,” said Dr. Glen Gowers, Co-Founder of Basecamp Research. “Our teams share the same belief that nature is our best inspiration for solving our planet’s most pressing challenges. We cannot wait to combine our highly complementary technologies and dive further into Basecamp Research’s unrivaled map of microbial biodiversity to supercharge Protein Evolution’s development and scale-up of enzymatic plastic recycling processes.”

Basecamp’s global research team and biodiversity partners are constantly and intentionally sampling environments that are understudied and industrially relevant, including contaminated soils and waters. With over six billion relationships between genes, genomes, environments, and other biologically relevant data in Basecamp Research’s map of biodiversity, their AI platform has plenty of real-world data to predict the physical and functional properties of their designed proteins.

Combining Basecamp Research’s platform with Protein Evolution’s scale-up expertise will help l accelerate the development timelines of novel enzymes for biological recycling from years to months.

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