Pharma continue to go 'green' with Materia's catalysts

By Dr Matt Wilkinson

- Last updated on GMT

Materia's metathesis platform continues to excite the
pharmaceutical industry as they follow their recent license to
Merck with a license to Aileron Therapeutics.

In December, Merck licensed the technology from Materia to enhance its drug discovery and development processes. Aileron Therapeutics, an emerging biopharmaceutical company, has followed suit and aims to use the technology to create a new class of anticancer peptide therapeutics directed at intra-cellular protein-protein interaction targets inaccessible by small molecule or biological drugs.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although Materia will receive license fees, milestone payments and royalties.

The catalysis platform is based on the 2005 Nobel Prize winning technology and includes the intellectual property developed by Professor Robert Grubbs and enables the synthesis of potential new drugs in a more environmentally friendly and efficient manner leading to fewer byproducts and less hazardous waste.

Metathesis catalysts enable the formation and manipulation of carbon-carbon double bonds to form new products and are especially useful to the pharmaceutical industry for making new biologically active complex ring systems from simple acyclic starting materials.

"Materia is the leader in olefin metathesis technology, and we are pleased to have such a distinguished partner that brings the kind of unique expertise that will accelerate our efforts to create a new class of peptide therapeutics,"​ stated Joseph Yanchik, Aileron's CEO.

Materia also supply metathesis catalysts for resale to Sigma-Aldrich, who currently have six metathesis catalysts in their catalogue and will soon be adding another five due to the increasing synthetic applicability and use of this important chemical transformation.

The word metathesis means to transpose or to change places, with a metathesis reaction being defined as "the interchange of atoms or groups of atoms between two molecules."

Since the discovery of the reaction in 1971 by Yves Chauvin, at the Institut Francais du Petrole, the process has become more and more synthetically useful, helped by the development of efficient catalysts by Professor Richard Shrock, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Professor Robert Grubbs, Califormia Technical Institute.

The Nobel Prize committee described the technology as: "a great step forward for 'green chemistry' reducing potentially hazardous waste through smarter production,"​ stating the reaction was "an example of how important basic science has been applied for the benefit of man, society, and the environment."

The technology finds application in making compounds during the drug discovery process, development process as well as in production, where the inherent efficiency of the metathesis process provides distinct cost advantages over conventional synthetic methodologies.

According to John Kibler, Materia's director of corporate development, the two major uses of the metathesis chemistry by pharmaceutical companies is using ring-closing-metathesis reactions to form medium to large ring systems as well as using cross-metathesis reactions to change the functional groups attached to either end of a carbon-carbon double bond with the release of ethane as a byproduct.

"Aileron has taken a novel approach towards the design of pharmaceutically-active biologics and we support these efforts,"​ stated Dr. Michael Giardello, Materia's CEO.

"This work further demonstrates the breadth of application for Materia's metathesis catalyst platform."

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