Amide bonds – also known as a peptide bonds – are the strong links formed when the carboxyl group of one molecule reacts with the amino group of another.
They are present in wide range of natural and man-made materials – from proteins to the Kevlar in bullet proof vests – and according to the American Chemical Society are used in the production of 84% of drug candidates currently being developed.
While clearly useful chemically – in drugs amide bond stability helps improve shelf-life and resistance to degradation – to date production methods have relied on reagents like carbonyl diimidazole (CDI) or uronium salts such as HBTU, which are costly and difficult to handle.
This may be about to change according to UK contract manufacturing organisation Aesica Pharmaceuticals, which has partnered with researchers at the University of Nottingham to commercialise a new way of making amide bonds.
Dr Barrie Rhodes, Aesica's Director of Technology Development, told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “The coupling methods that have been developed by the University and Nottingham and Aesica involve less expensive, and significantly simpler coupling agents [than established techniques].”
The idea – Rhodes continued - is to make reactions more “atom efficient” – all the starting materials go into the final chemical product and no atoms are lost.
“The technology that has been developed also allows the direct conversion of both esters and carboxylic acids to amides.”
He did not say how much cheaper and greener the new production method can be for Aesica’s customers, explaining that: “Some of the technology that has been developed by the University of Nottingham and Aesica is novel and innovative, therefore we are not yet in a position to disclose specifics.
When asked if the CMO will by the only one to offer the new synthesis method Rhodes said that: “Aesica is at the early developmental stages of the innovation programme. Typically, we determine exclusivity on a project by project basis.”
The partnership is one of a number the CMO has signed with academics in the UK in the last year – most recent of which was the deal it struck with researchers at the Universities of Leeds and Durham to optimise processes at its facility in Cramlington.