The field of biotransformations has developed rapidly over the past eight years. The use of esterases and lipases is now widespread; these enzymes are of particular importance in the production of optically active building blocks for organic synthesis as well as in large-scale processes involving the transesterification of fats. The latter area (i.e. the catalysis of esterification processes) has stimulated research into the properties of immobilized enzymes and the use of enzymes in low-water systems. In related work, enzymes have been used for the preparation of peptides and small proteins. Redox enzymes have been investigated extensively, particularly with regard to the stereocontrolled reduction of ketones to secondary alcohols. The methods for using commercially available enzymes of this type have become increasingly 'user-friendly'. The controlled oxidation of hydrocarbon units is another area that has deserved increased attention. For example, oxidation of benzene and simple derivatives by Pseudomonas sp. has been researched by a number of U.K. groups. These recent advances in enzyme-catalysed reactions (using both whole-cell systems and partly purified protein) for the transformation of unnatural substrates is discussed and some areas of interest for the future are outlined.