Under-pressure speciality chemicals company Solutia has launched an offensive on the outsourced peptide synthesis market with the formation of a new business group in Switzerland focusing on the sector.
The news was announced on the same day as Solutia posted a third-quarter loss of $178 million, or $1.70 per share, on sales that were marginally up compared to the same period of 2002 at $578 million. The company is continuing to struggle with debts of around $1.25 billion, and earlier this month initiated a debt restructuring programme after hiring advisors to discuss its options, said at the time to include bankruptcy or a sale of the business.
Solutia PSD has been formed to provide services based on conventional solid phase synthesis as well as continuous flow solid phase peptide synthesis (CFSPPS), which improves the efficiency with which peptides can be synthesised by removing many of the usual issues associated with classical solid-phase methods.
Solid phase synthesis was first conceived in the 1950s and works on the premise that if the peptide is bound to an insoluble support such as a resin, then any unreacted reagents left at the end of any synthetic step can be removed by a simple procedure, reducing the time involved.
Using CFSPPS, the procedure is speeded up and the reaction conditions are milder. Reagents are passed through a reaction chamber containing the resin-supported peptide, and then can be re-circulated back into the chamber if required or diverted to waste. This saves time, but also means that the solution can be passed through detection systems to allow monitoring in conjunction with automation. The process also reduces the need for strongly acidic reagents.
Solutia PSD's own take on the CFSPPS process will be used to produce large peptides at quantities intended for clinical and in-market use (up to 100 kg).
Adoption of the process will help the company reduce the time, costs and risks associated with drug development, said Dr Tom Waldman, Director of PR&D and Project Management for Solutia PSD.
"With solid-phase synthetic methods alone, we were able to produce peptides up to only eight mer. The addition of the CFSPPS process enables the production of peptides up to a size of 50 mer," he noted.
Citing one example, Waldman said that Solutia PSD was able to reduce production time for one kilo of calcitonin (a 32 mer peptide) from eight months to only six weeks.
Solutia PSD has located its peptide chemistry unit at a manufacturing site located in Hunzenschwil, Switzerland. The unit will specialise in a comprehensive range of peptides including natural, unnatural, cyclo, pseudo and modified peptides.