Biotransformations involve the use of biological systems (whole cells, extracts or isolated enzymes) to catalyze the conversion of one chemical compound to another.
Microorganisms, in the course of their normal metabolic activities, are capable of performing complex chemical reactions in a surprisingly short time that otherwise would require elaborate reactor setups. As a result, sizable quantities of natural products can be obtained with minimal effort using selected microbial cultures.
The current focus at Sabinsa R&D in this area is on the biogeneration of natural flavors for use in food, beverage and pharmaceutical applications. Selected strains of yeast, when grown in specially formulated media, under carefully controlled conditions, convert compounds such as amino acids and fatty acids into flavor compounds such as alcohols, esters and lactones. By controlling the process conditions, biogeneration may be favored over growth of yeast cells. The resultant products are isolated by extraction processes and concentrated to yield useful flavor compounds.