One of the goals for protein engineers has been the acquisition of the knowledge to design and build proteins for any given function. This has usually been achieved by modifying an existing protein with a similar function. However, the protein engineer has been faced with an intensive task of gathering and understanding a whole realm of information about the enzyme's structure and mechanism and the role that each amino acid plays in the catalytic process. Although rational enzyme redesign has resulted in some notable successes, it has highlighted more often our relatively poor understanding of the intricacies of enzyme recognition and catalysis. The search was therefore on to develop an alternative to rational enzyme redesign. The techniques of molecular biology coupled with more automated methods for handling repetitive tasks have provided an answer: directed evolution.

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