Catalysts are a vital part of synthetic chemistry. However, there are still many important reactions for which catalysts have not been developed. The use of enzymes as biocatalysts for synthetic chemistry is growing in importance due to the drive towards sustainable methods for producing both bulk chemicals and high value compounds such as pharmaceuticals, and due to the ability of enzymes to catalyse chemical reactions with excellent stereoselectivity and regioselectivity. Such challenging transformations are a common feature of natural product biosynthetic pathways. In this mini-review, we discuss the potential to use biosynthetic pathways as a starting point for biocatalyst discovery. We introduce the reader to natural product assembly and tailoring, then focus on four classes of enzyme that catalyse C─H bond activation reactions to functionalize biosynthetic precursors. Finally, we briefly discuss the challenges involved in novel enzyme discovery.

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