Andre Koltermann, 34
Speeds protein evolution to improve detergents, medicines, and foods
An admirer of Charles Darwin, Andre Koltermann is bent on speeding up natural evolution. Bacteria, for example, produce enzymes with useful stain-fighting properties, but nature has yet to make an enzyme that performs optimally alongside the harsh chemicals in laundry detergents. Andre Koltermann says his company, Direvo Biotech, has. Koltermann and his colleagues have altered an enzyme used in commercial detergents, making it a hundred times more effective at eliminating stains. They did so by adapting “directed evolution,” a technique for inducing the genes that encode the enzymes to mutate or recombine. Researchers use fluorescence spectroscopy to screen for promising variations. The process enabled Koltermann to find the best enzymes more quickly than is possible with conventional techniques. Founded in Cologne, Germany, in 2000 by Koltermann and two partners, Direvo has secured more than $25 million in financing. Koltermann will use the funds to expand the firm’s work in directed evolution, with the aim of improving the enzymes in medicines, foods and animal feeds.