This represents the first product to come out of the two companies' collaboration, forged in early 2002, to develop a range of biological catalysts to improve the activity, stability and expression of reactions used to make pharmaceutical intermediates, and particularly optically-pure isomers.
BASF will produce the biocatalyst and apply it in one of their proprietary biocatalytic processes to synthesise a chiral intermediate. A spokeswoman for BASF would not divulge the identity of the intermediate, or give any clues to the class of pharmaceutical produced using it, but said merely that it had been developed at the request of a top 15 pharmaceutical manufacturer.
An effective biocatalytic process can often replace several chemical steps using conventional approaches, as its high specificity for the substrate in the reaction can remove the need for protection and deprotection procedures.
Biocatalysts also have the advantages of allowing reactions to be carried out under milder conditions by removing the need for elevated temperatures and/or noxious chemicals.
Optically active chiral compounds play an important role in the life science industry. Regulatory requirements and the prospects of lower toxicity, higher efficacy, and lower manufacturing costs have increased demand for chiral compounds, and BASF markets a broad and growing portfolio of chiral products under its ChiPros brand. The ChiPros range includes optically active amines, alcohols, epoxides and acids and their derivatives.
Jay Short, chief executive at Diversa, said: "In licensing our enzyme to BASF, we have achieved an important product commercialisation objective for 2003 and another milestone in increasing our near-term product revenue. We are hopeful that this will be the first of several commercial licenses to be signed under this collaboration with BASF."