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Unilever partners with Arzeda to design new enzyme technologies

By Mary Page Bailey |

Unilever plc (London) and Arzeda (Seattle, Wash.), the industry-leading Protein Design Company, have entered a strategic partnership to apply the latest advances in digital biology to discovering and designing new enzymes. The partnership will impact many of the world’s leading cleaning and laundry products, including Unilever’s OMO (Persil), Sunlight, and Surf.  

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.”

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