The process is entirely biocatalytic, employing three enzyme catalysts, and uses raw materials that are produced locally in bulk by Lonza. The process is highly efficient and an example of environmentally friendly, 'green' chemistry, requiring relatively low energy inputs, mild solvents and generating minimal by-products, according to Codexis.
The US firm will receive license fees and royalties from Lonza, and will also sell commercial quantities of the novel biocatalysts to the custom manufacturer for use in the production process. The chiral compound to be produced was not revealed.
Codexis, a majority-owned subsidiary of gene and protein developer Maxygen, has developed the proprietary biocatalytic process using its MolecularBreeding platform. The technology speeds up the development of improved or novel processes for cost-effective synthesis using breakthrough biocatalysts and production strains.
Biocatalysts are used to simplify and lower the cost of a variety of chemical transformations and are of particular interest in manufacturing chiral compounds. 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.
Last year, a report published by Frost & Sullivan predicted that the market for chiral compounds destined for the drug industry will rise from $7.0 billion (€6bn) in 2002 to $14.9 billion in 2009. In 2002, 55 per cent of chiral compounds were generated by traditional resolution technologies, 35 per cent by chemocatalysis and 10 per cent by biocatalysis.
Codexis has entered into 10 strategic alliances in the chemicals field, and has over 15 potential products and processes in its R&D pipeline with two product candidates in development. It currently has five processes operating at commercial scale.