Could coffee waste be turned into drugs?

As reported by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Scientists working at the University of Iowa have recentrly discovered a new bacterium which feeds on caffeine. They are hopeful that it could be used to decaffeinate coffee waste to used as a feedstock for biofuel production.

It is hoped that the research could have many practical applications. Nick Turner, a biotechnolgist from the University of Manchester stated,  ‘The specificity of each N-demethylase for a different methyl group is a beautiful example of how enzymes are able to catalyse selective transformations on their substrates, and something that would be very difficult to emulate using traditional chemical processes. The ability to convert caffeine…into higher value products could be attractive to the fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries, who are increasingly interested in new low-cost biotechnologies for the manufacture of their products.’ 

It is also thought that biodecaffeination is another potential practical application, as explained by Turner, ‘If we could decaffeinate coffee waste, millions of tons of which is produced every year, it might be useful as a fermentation feedstock to make ethanol as a biofuel. The waste could also be turned into animal feed in this way.’ 

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