The UK drug major announced its partnership with science funding agency, Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo (FAPESP), earlier this week, explaining that the idea is to establish a research “centre of excellence.”
GSK’s Catherine Hartley told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “We’re investing nearly £400,000 per year during a 10-year collaboration which will be matched by FAPESP.”
She added that the idea is to attract academics interested in developing sustainable, industrial chemistry that can be fed into both GSK’s manufacturing operations and other local projects.
“Rather than the centre being staffed by GSK, the model is that Sao Paulo Research Foundation will make a call for proposal to universities located in State of Sao Paulo which will be responsible for implementing the project in Brazil.”
The idea of using novel chemistries developed by academics is not a new one. GSK already has ties with the University of Nottingham, UK where researchers have identified more sustainable solvents for industrial processes.
Scientific innovation good for business
It is too early to say which chemistries will be worked on in Sao Paulo. However, the impact of the research could be far reaching according to Hartley, who cited work done at a similar site in Singapore on amoxicillin production as an example of when scientific innovation has changed manufacturing practices.
“The traditional process to synthesise amoxicillin requires energy-intensive cooling and large volumes of organic solvents, which create waste. However, the green chemistry team at our site in Singapore has developed an enzymatic process that could cut carbon emissions by 36,000 tonnes and reduce organic waste by around 2,400 tonnes.”
She explained that – in the Singapore research example – the enzyme reduces the number of chemical reactions needed to produce the antibiotic in a process that – in addition to reducing the amount of solvent required – has potential benefits for GSKs revenues.
“Our antibiotics are sold in a highly competitive market, so these improvements can also help to differentiate the product” Hartley said, confirming that GSK will invest up to SGD60m ($48m) to convert to enzymatic amoxicillin production at its Quality Road site in the Singapore.
Helen Sneddon, head of GSK’s green chemistry performance unit, and representatives from FAPESP and the University of Nottingham will guide research at the new Sao Paulo centre as part of joint steering committee.