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Reversing the function of an enzyme allows a chemist to produce very complex chemicals with a minimum amount of effort. This is best highlighted by the glycosal synthases class which can be used to produce complex carbohydrates vaccines in a little as 10 steps versus the traditional 50+ steps via chemical synthesis. In this class, the enzyme has lost its hydrolysis capacity and instead is “tricked” into performing a synthesis instead. The significant drawback of this method is the difficulty to produce a high-functioning enzyme with a reversed function. A collaboration with the University of Southampton saw us exploring what mutations could be rationally introduced to the enzyme to improve the synthetic activity.

The main findings were: