Introduction

Oxygenases are a group of enzymes that carry out the regio-, stereo- and chemoselective introduction of oxygen into a large range of organic molecules under mild conditions, and thus catalyse crucial reactions in various metabolic routes. This versatility is of utmost interest for industrial processes that include oxidative transformations (for instance textile, pharmaceutical and biorefinery processes), as the industrial use of oxygenases could represent an environmentally friendly alternative to harsh chemical processes for the production of bulk and fine chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, and other value-added products. Although significant development and research has been carried out in recent years resulting in some industrial applications, the exploitation of oxygenases, compared to other enzyme classes, is still in its infancy, mainly due to a relatively poor availability of industrially suitable biocatalysts and methodology to apply them. Therefore, to fully exploit the catalytic power of these enzymes, (i) deeper understanding of their abilities and limitations is needed, (ii) enzyme engineering needs to be conducted, and (iii) technical aspects of their application need to be solved.

The overarching research goal of the OXYTRAIN network is to boost the development and exploitation of oxygenating enzymes in industrial applications. In order to achieve this main goal, well-trained researchers from different backgrounds are indispensable, as are new tools and approaches for the generation of industrially applicable enzymes. In this context, the OXYTRAIN consortium has identified the ITN programme as a suitable vehicle for providing an innovative research and training programme for early-stage researchers (ESRs). Efficient pan-european training will be achieved by setting up a network and intersectoral programme in which multiple disciplines will be integrated and exploited, providing elements from highly required explorative advanced enzymology to the novel technical issues that emerge from using oxygenases in industrial settings. The network will link knowledge in the field of biocatalysis with capacities in (bio)chemistry, enzyme engineering and in biotechnological “end-user oriented” skills. Integration of these fields of expertise is essential to progress in efficient development of novel biotechnological processes.

OXYTRAIN will provide a training network for 12 ESRs spread over four Work Packages (WP). The WPs correspond to four major classes of oxygenases: flavin-dependent monooxygenases (WP1), heme-dependent monooxygenases (WP2), copper-dependent monooxygenases (WP3) and cofactor-independent oxygenases (WP4). The four experimental WPs will be complemented by an intensive course programme and networking events (WP5). Moreover, the consortium behind OXYTRAIN is composed of leading scientists recognised by the excellence of their graduate programmes, by the high-level of research performed and by several previous interactions.

Each ESR will have an Individual Research, which will be tightly connected through underlying joint research questions: (i) increase the knowledge about the enzyme mechanism; (ii) improve enzyme efficiency through enzyme engineering and (iii) apply the enzymes to industrial applications (focus on textile in WP1, pharmaceuticals in WP1 and WP2, and biorefinery in WP3). In addition, ESRs will benefit from the joint use of the OXYTRAIN network’s portfolio of advanced methods and materials in fundamental and applied redox biochemistry.