What is directed evolution?

Evolution is a search algorithm that finds needles of good design in haystacks of possibility.

Daniel Dennett


Directed evolution is a method of protein engineering that simulates natural selection in the lab. The process starts with a gene coding for a “wild-type”, or unmodified, enzyme of interest. Random variation is introduced into the gene by mutagenesis, generating a library of millions of genes each coding for a unique enzyme variant. A functional selection pressure is then applied to the library, and only the genes coding for the highest performing enzymes “survive”. This process of random mutation and selection is repeated until the desired enzyme characteristic evolves.

How is our directed evolution technology different?

Since introducing random mutation into a gene is mostly harmful to the function of the encoded enzyme, unlocking the power of directed evolution requires the ability to screen very large numbers of enzyme variants. Our core technology combines a high-throughput emulsion format with high-throughput selection assays to enable the functional screening of hundreds of millions of enzyme variants in parallel.

What are the benefits of evolved enzymes versus “wild-type” enzymes?

The majority of DNA and RNA modifying enzymes are “wild-type”, isolated from nature without modification, and were never intended as tools for molecular biology.
Directed evolution enables us to engineer improvements to enzyme characteristics such as thermostability, specific activity, processivity, or resistance to inhibitors that require global changes to protein structure. These characteristics are not amenable to rational design, a method of protein engineering that requires detailed information about enzyme structure and function.
These evolved enzymes are different from other “engineered” enzymes because they are optimized for characteristics that cannot be addressed using rational design.

 How are the enzymes used today?

Kapa Biosystems has developed a suite of high-performance enzymes, engineered via directed evolution, for PCR, qPCR and next-generation sequencing. Our products have been cited in over 2000 peer-reviewed publications for….



PCR Products

KAPA PCR enzymes reduce sample bias and streamline workflows. Learn more about KAPA HiFi and other enzymes.

qPCR Products

Real-time PCR kits are designed for the highest performance in Gene Expression and Genotyping applications. Learn more about the KAPA SYBR® FAST and PROBE FAST kits.


Next-Generation Sequencing Products

Kapa Biosystems offers a suite of NGS products, including KAPA Library Preparation kits, for both Illumina and Ion Torrent platforms.