There is growing demand for chiral alcohols, says Wacker, because they are used in the synthesis of single-isomer or chiral intermediates and drugs, i.e. those that consist of just one of the two mirror-image conformations that are encountered in organic compounds.
Chiral production technology has developed rapidly in the last few years due to an increasing demand for single stereoisomer compounds as active ingredients in pharmaceuticals. One of the most efficient ways to produce enantiomerically pure chiral alcohols is by stereospecific reduction of ketones via biocatalysis.
The new deal complements an initial collaboration between Wacker and Jülich Fine Chemicals in 2003, which also focused on the development of chiral alcohols.
Under the terms of the agreement, Prokaria will commence a programme to rationally select and develop novel biocatalysts for the synthesis of complex chiral alcohols. The company has exclusive rights to take commercial samples in most of Iceland's geothermal areas, and this could be a source of new catalysts. Meanwhile, JFC will be involved in functional screening and evaluation work.
The three companies intend to extend the product range of chiral alcohols (beta-hydroxyesters, hydroxyketones, diols and alpha-chloroalcohols) based on the pool of ketone compounds already marketed by Wacker. For its part, JFC will handle lab and kilogramme-scale demand, while Wacker will cover tonne-scale business.