Chiral or single-enantiomer drugs are a growing market predicted to rise from $7.0 billion (€6bn) in 2002 to $14.9 billion in 2009, according to market analysts Frost & Sullivan. Organic compounds tend to exist in two mirror image forms or optical enantiomers. Whether a compound is optically left or right 'handed' has a major impact in the pharmaceutical industry. Today the majority of new drugs being introduced are made in one chiral form, and this has led to an increased market for tools used in their production.
Chiral Tech licensed the new technology from the University of Vienna in Austria, where the columns were developed by a team headed by Prof Wolfgang Linder.
The columns are impregnated with chiral selecting compounds - based on quinine and quinidine derivatives - and will be developed and sold by Chiral tech under the ChiralPak QD-AX and ChiralPak QN-AX brand names. Work at the University led to chemical bonding of the chiral selectors to silica gel, and demonstration that separations can be carried out with all common HPLC solvents.
Rodger Stringham, director of technology at Chiral Tech, said that the derivatives used in the columns have a tertiary amine in a binding cleft - along with additional hydrogen bonding sites - which allow very strong interactions with chiral acids.
This formation means that the columns are particularly good at separating molecules containing carboxylic, phosphonic, phosphoric or sulfonic acid groups, he added. "Most separations are accomplished in the polar organic and reversed phase modes. In addition, the columns show high loading capacity for preparative applications," said Stringham.
The licensing deal was announced at the start of the HPLC 2005 international conference on chromatography, which opened its doors this week. The Daicel Group will be the worldwide source for the chromatography products derived from the invention.
In addition to supplying chiral chromatography columns and bulk chiral stationary phases, Chiral Tech also operates an outsourcing centre for separation of chiral compounds from the gram to 50 Kg scale in West Chester, US.