Office for Technology Commercialization

Engineered enzymes to disrupt and prevent biofilms

Technology #20160278b
Engineered enzymes that inhibit hazardous and infectious biofilms by breaking down bacterial communication molecules.

Biofilms: pervasive, destructive and difficult to prevent

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Breaking lines of communication

Bacterial communication is vital for the formation of biofilms and interfering with this communication may mitigate against biofilm formation. Bacteria often secrete acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs), a molecule required for quorum sensing and biofilm formation. AHLs are degraded by the enzyme lactonase. University of Minnesota researchers have engineered lactonases in order to maximize enzyme stability and activity against a wide variety of lactones. These enzymes are capable of disrupting bacterial communication and preventing biofilm formation. The improved solubility, stability and longevity profile of these enzymes makes them ideal anti-infectives. Specifically, they can be incorporated in a variety of solvents or coatings, thus rendering them readily deployable on most surfaces. Significant human and veterinary medicine applications are possible where biofilm control is critical, for example biofilms associated with cystic fibrosis, bacterial endocarditis and urinary tract infections.

To learn more about applications in material and biological sciences, read our complementary postings, 2016027a and 20160278c.

Phase of Development

Proof of concept. Experiments have shown that the enzymes can be added to a coating on steel, retain activity and successfully prevent biofilm-mediated biocorrosion.

Features & Benefits

  • Prevents and disrupts biofilms: Lactonase breaks down the AHL lactones used for quorum sensing by bacteria, a key step in the formation of biofilms.
  • Non-toxic: Based on research and animal feeding studies, no environmental or health hazards have been identified, which are commonly associated with biocidal compounds.
  • Robust and useable in diverse environments: The enzymes are temperature, protease, acid and age resistant, retaining activity even in organic solvents.
  • Conventional production methods: Scalable enzyme production using fermentation.


  • Disinfecting coating or spray (medical or food surfaces)
  • Anti-microbial coating for medical devices/products (pacemakers, bandages, contacts, dentures, bandaids…)
  • Prevent post-harvest crop rot
  • Prevention of food contamination (spray/coat food products)

Ready for Licensing

This technology is now available for license! The university is excited to partner with industry to see this innovation reach its potential. Please contact Kenneth Karanja to share your business’ needs and your licensing interests in this technology. The license is for the sale, manufacture or use of products claimed by the patents.