Biology meets cloud computing and AI: Unilever partners with Arzeda to harness the power of computer designed enzymes
- The multi-year partnership aims to discover new enzymes that will help to transform the sustainability and performance of cleaning and laundry products
- Arzeda and Unilever to computer design new enzymes with superior benefits to help clean up the cleaning industry
Enzymes are fundamental to the natural and living world around us, responsible for nearly all biological functions that take place on earth, from how plants and trees absorb CO2, to how we convert food to energy in our bodies. Enzymes have also long been a key ingredient in cleaning and laundry products, breaking down stains made from fat, oils, and protein chains on our laundry and surfaces. To date, science has only scraped the surface of the benefits they could provide in our everyday lives. Unlocking their power could provide almost endless possibilities.
Under the partnership, over the next three years, the global consumer goods company will apply Arzeda’s world-leading digital biology techniques to its own product innovations across its cleaning and laundry portfolio. Arzeda learns from the vast number of enzymes already in nature, and uses smart technologies – a combination of physics-based computational protein design and deep learning, a form of AI – to optimise their functionalities. As well as exploring enzymes occurring naturally in the world, Arzeda is also able to design diverse, new versions with unique benefits that would otherwise not have been possible.
Originally derived from nature, Arzeda optimizes enzymes to replace ingredients with a high environmental footprint commonly found in most cleaning and laundry products. As part of its Clean Future strategy, Unilever has committed to eliminate virgin fossil fuels as a feedstock for the chemicals in its cleaning and laundry product formulations. Enzymes, which are low carbon, naturally derived and deliver added performance benefits, will be critical in helping Unilever realise its Clean Future ambition. The discovery and optimisation of new enzymes in formulations could result in up to 50% less ingredients required, while delivering superior cleaning benefits to the consumer.
As well as delivering new benefits for the cleaning and laundry sector, this partnership will encourage knowledge sharing of previously undiscovered uses for enzymes that could solve wider consumer, industrial and environmental challenges across multiple sectors. Arzeda is working with a number of global players at present to produce future-focussed solutions to large societal and everyday problems, from the production of renewable chemicals to self-healing phone screens.
Peter ter Kulve, Unilever Home Care President said, “This partnership is an exciting step forward as we work to transform our cleaning and laundry business to be superior, sustainable and affordable to all. We look forward to working with Arzeda in developing a new generation of ultra-performing cleaning and laundry products with an environmental impact a fraction of the size of current products.”
Alexandre Zanghellini, CEO and founder of Arzeda said, “We are delighted to work with Unilever to support their Clean Future ambition with enzymes that improve the environmental footprint of consumer products. Arzeda’s mission is to design and manufacture new proteins that improve health and sustainability, and we see this partnership as a key milestone to make this a reality in home care. Working with Unilever, we hope to create a new era for industrial enzymes that will contribute to a more sustainable world while improving consumer experience.”
In April this year, The Nova Institute released a report, commissioned by Unilever, titled ‘Turning off the tap for fossil carbon.’ In it, it was calculated for the first time ever the amount of carbon needed annually for the production of chemicals and derived products: 450 million tonnes. Of this, 85% of the overall carbon demand is met by virgin fossil fuel resources.
Decoupling the chemical sector from the use of virgin fossil fuels is critical for mitigating the damaging impact of climate change and requires a transformation of the chemicals sector unseen since the industrial revolution.
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods & Refreshment products, with sales in over 190 countries and products used by 2.5 billion people every day. We have 149,000 employees and generated sales of €50.7 billion in 2020. Over half of our footprint is in developing and emerging markets. We have around 400 brands found in homes all over the world – including iconic global brands like Dove, Lifebuoy, Knorr, Magnum, OMO and Surf; and other brands such as Love Beauty & Planet, Hourglass, Seventh Generation and The Vegetarian Butcher.
Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how our purpose-led, future-fit business model drives superior performance. We have a long tradition of being a progressive, responsible business. It goes back to the days of our founder William Lever, who launched the world’s first purposeful brand, Sunlight Soap, more than 100 years ago, and it’s at the heart of how we run our company today.
The Unilever Compass, our sustainable business strategy, is set out to help us deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth, while:
- improving the health of the planet;
- improving people’s health, confidence and wellbeing; and
- contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world.
While there is still more to do, we are proud to have been recognised in 2020 as a sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and – for the tenth-consecutive year – as the top ranked company in the 2020 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders survey.
For more information about Unilever and our brands, please visit www.unilever.com.
Arzeda harnesses the power of computational protein design to create and manufacture proteins that enhance our lives and protect our planet. In partnership with Fortune 500 companies and industrial leaders, we develop healthy and sustainable products for the food & nutrition, advanced materials, and diagnostics & pharma industries globally. Arzeda’s proprietary protein design platform combines physics-based computational protein design, machine learning and lab automation to expand the reach of biotechnology beyond the solutions that nature evolved. For more information, please visit www.arzeda.com.