Metamorphosis of Enzymes into PluriZymes and BioHybrid Catalysts as Promising Choice in the Process of Creating Scientific and Bioeconomic Innovation

Aim and vision

Scientific, technical and international impact

Equality dimension

Project Details

In this undertaking, the Systems Biotechnology Group will develop a high-tech platform that will MetaMorphose enzymes into a new generation of artificial enzyme designs named PluriZymes and BioHybrid catalysts with innovative structures and functionalities. PluriZymes refer to the concept of adding multiple active sites to the same enzyme structure, that can support the same chemistry or different chemistry (Image 1). BioHybrid catalysts refer to enzymes or PluriZymes that integrates a chemical catalytic entity into an enzymatic scaffold, introduced by using an inhibitor with a phosphonate group and an aromatic group able to bind transition metals to form catalytically active metal complexes, and which binds irreversibly to catalytic serine ester hydrolases (Image 2).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it clear: to limit global warming to 1.5°C we need to strive for it now, or it will be out of reach, with irrevocable consequences. The project MetaMorph will cooperate with this cause by applying our expertise in biotechnology to the serve of developing outstanding enzymes. Not only the level of functionality of the final products will be higher but also their sustainability during their production, use or end-of-life will be fostered.

Aim and vision

Enzymes as our Nature inspiration for progress and environment protection

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In a world facing major environmental threats, Europe [and Spain as part of it] stands by its commitments from the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) and has agreed concrete measures in the European Green Deal: become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 while improving economic competitiveness. In this direction Spain submitted to the Commission its comprehensive National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC), in which it is intended to contribute by achieving a reduction of 21% in greenhouse gases, among other measures, in the next 10 years. In this context, enzymes undoubtedly have a central role as green catalysts operating efficiently at low energy needs and enabling novel functionalities. By tackling current scientific and technological limitations, MetaMorph will strive to develop a high-tech platform to perform the MetaMorphosis (or transformation) of enzymes (with original properties fitting industrial needs) into a new generation of artificial enzyme designs [PluriZymes] and BioHybrid catalysts with innovative structures and functionalities. They will enhance performances for processes and products with markedly reduced environmental impacts. The high-tech enzyme development platform will take advantage of our high capacity for enzyme bioprospecting, big biodata mining and analysis, disruptive machine learning, protein engineering, nano-biotechnology, upscale fermentation, and downstream processing. In addition to the interest in the enzyme market, MetaMorph will also bring to fruition the enormous potential of the developed innovative enzyme designs for use as catalysts to faster yield greener, more valuable, and sustainable products and processes on 5 market segments, detergents, textiles, cosmetics, fine chemicals, and agriculture, which combine a higher level of functionality with greater sustainability during their production, use or end-of-life: they respond to consumer and industry requests for greener and more efficient and innovative products. The strong collaboration with industry will be supported, thus making sure we take a holistic approach and ensure the results will be effective and relevant. They also contribute to the goals of ensuring innovation capacity and economic success, while reducing the environmental impacts of products and processes. MetaMorph will interact with a broad network of stakeholders, scientists, students and public in general, to ensure uptake of the developments and feedback insights towards policy-makers.

Scientific, technical and international impact

Impact is expected in different areas derived from the development of innovative artificial enzymes with which to develop real-life products and processes demanded by 6 industries in the enzyme, detergent, textile, cosmetic, fine chemical and agriculture sectors, that support this project. Such areas are:

En blanco

A better framework will be created for scientific innovation; it consists in new artificial enzymes and the platform to design those, that will be innovative in design and functionalities.


The overall sustainability and innovation capacity of the bio-based sector will be improved through the use of innovative enzyme designs. The innovative enzyme designs will have a high positive environmental impact because of the possibility to make greener and more innovative real-life products and processes, whose production and use is associated with a very high impact on greenhouse gases (e.g., CO2) and chemical emissions, as well as the consumption of large amounts of energy, water and chemicals.


The enzyme designs, products and processes will respond (at least in part) to social + citizen’s interests; e.g. wash at lower temperature, save water and energy by adding the new enzymes to liquid or unit dose caps detergent; improve production of textiles through the use of enzymes, avoiding hazardous working conditions; reductions of energy and CO2 emissions and avoidance of the use of solvents and related waste integrating into cosmetics ingredients produced by enzymes; avoidance of the use of solvents and related waste while producing by enzyme conversions fine chemicals and monomers for biocomposites.

En blanco

Through closer cooperation with industry, strategies will be developed to speed up the lab to market transition in the development of enzyme-based innovation and economic gain. This will be achieved because enzymes, and greener, more innovative and functional products and processes that can enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of industry will be developed. An exploitation plan to best explore market and business opportunities will be defined.


Awareness will be raised, and a better framework will be created for systemic innovation and uptake through increasing broad stakeholder and public engagement. This will be achieved by establishing an Open Access, Digitalization and Data Management Plan and Intellectual Property Rights plan, aligned to the RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation) and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles, and with a society in which gender equality as well as the rights of individuals, regardless of their racial, ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds, are defended and integrated. The plan will allow multiple dissemination, communication and exploitation channels and products, the maximum visibility and dissemination of the research, and will provide within the life-time of the project and further, control mechanisms and the accessibility and traceability of the datasets and materials.


The dissemination, communication and exploitation of the products and cross-sector interconnections will be established. Multi-actors will be involved in order to promote society’s perception and the implementation of global, National and European policies, specifically the COP21, the European Green Deal, and the PENIEC 2021-2030, to which close collaborations and joint scientific and policy meetings with other funded projects will contribute.

Equality dimension

Consistent with the priorities outlined in the EU’s and National’s objectives (including the promotion of gender equality in the I+D+i system and of the Integration of Gender Analysis in Research (IAGI)), MetaMorph will establish as a priority an inclusive and transparent environment that, aligned to principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), recognises that the efforts of finding more sustainable alternatives should be aligned with a society in which gender equality as well as the rights of individuals, regardless of their racial, ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds, are defended and integrated.

More information

Of the 4 researchers involved in MetaMorph (1 PI and 3 members in the team), the gender ratio is 50% female and 50% male; the goal within this project is to maintain this percentage and reach after the recruitment stage also a minimum of 50% female researchers comprising PhDs and postdocs. A Gender, Ethics and Rights Task Force, which will be managed by Dr. M. Ferrer (MALE) and Dr. C. Coscolín (FEMALE), will be implemented to defend gender equality, to improve the position and progression of women in science, to take into account gender issues when project information is communicated through providing an extensive communication network to promote gender equality (e.g. taking into account gender issues and possible different behaviour during the communication of the project), to continuously evaluate how MetaMorph research affects gender issues, to collect statistics, and to solve problems or conflicts due to equality violations. The Gender, Ethics and Rights Committee will ensure that individuals of both genders, regardless of their racial, ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds, will be integrated in all project steps inside and outside of the group. Finally, we would like to mention that we will also organize a public event “European Green Deal, PNIEC 2021-2030 and PID2020 aligned with Rights, Ethics, Equality” to reinforce our compromise with a society where ethics as well as gender equality, and rights whatever race, ethnic, and cultural and educational backgrounds are defended and integrated, that are priority National’s and EU’s objectives; this event will be organized, if possible, in the frame of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. All of this, along with MetaMorph’s efforts in education and training, will contribute towards Sustainable Development Goals SDG4.3-4.5/4.7, SDG5.1/5.5/5.c, SDG8.6, SDG9.5, SDG13.3.

The Group is following the recommendations of the CSIC and ICP equality committees:


Project Details

Reference: PID2020-112758RB-I00

Starting date: 01.09.2021

End date: 31.08.2024

Name of the call: Agencia Estatal de Investigación en el marco de «Proyectos de I+D+i» del Programa Estatal de Generación de Conocimiento y Fortalecimiento Científico y Tecnológico del Sistema de I+D+i y del Programa Estatal de I+D+i Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad, del Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica y Técnica y de Innovación 2017-2020/ AEI / DOI (Digital Object Identifier) 10.13039/501100011033.

Team: M. Ferrer (PI), Laura Fernández López (Pre-doc)

Metamorphosis of Enzymes into PluriZymes and BioHybrid Catalysts as Promising Choice in the Process of Creating Scientific and Bioeconomic Innovation

Manuel Ferrer
Research Professor
Systems Biotechnology Group
Office 202

Department of Applied Biocatalysis
Institute of Catalysis
Spanish National Research Council
Marie Curie, 2
+34 91 585 48 72