With the rapid development of powerful protein evolution and enzyme-screening technologies, there is a growing belief that optimum conditions for biotransformation processes can be established without the constraints of the properties of the biocatalyst. These technologies can then be applied to find the ‘ideal biocatalyst’ for the process. In identifying the ideal biocatalyst, the processes of gene discovery and enzyme evolution play major roles. However, in order to expand the pool genes for in vitro evolution, new technologies, which circumvent the limitations of microbial culturability, must be applied. These technologies, which currently include metagenomic library screening, gene-specific amplification methods and even full metagenomic sequencing, provide access to a volume of ‘sequence space’ that is not addressed by traditional screening.

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