Almac invests $4m in biocatalysis business
21 Oct 2010
The need for green, economic, robust and scaleable processes
for the synthesis of chiral APIs and intermediates prompted Almac to
build and fully integrate a biocatalysis group into its service
Last year Almac launched carbonyl reductase, transaminase, hydrolase,
nitrilase, and nitrile hydratase enzyme screening kits and is
continuing to both advance the biocatalysis business and to broaden
application of its biocatalysis expertise with a further US$4m R&D
The investment will be used primarily to focus around discovery
of new biocatalytic platforms that can be rapidly implemented and
scaled, delivering cost effective processes to chiral intermediates.
Other areas of research will investigate hyper-activation of
biocatalysts reducing enzyme loadings, as well as development of
efficient and robust drivers for cofactor recycle and problems with
As anticipated, the business has advanced from the sale of enzyme
screening kits, then to screening and optimising custom
transformations, and finally to the supply of 10s then 100s of kgs
of chiral intermediates.
For example, preliminary screening was carried out to demonstrate
that a carbonyl reductase (CRED) bioreduction could replace a
resolution for the preparation of a chiral alcohol. Having
identified a CRED at small scale, Almac prepared a hundred grams of
the chiral alcohol and integrated it into the API process
The next step was to manufacture 30 kgs for incorporation into
the GMP API manufacture for Phase I clinical trials.
The rapid scale-up from biocatalyst screening has been the
critical success factor for the recent paradigm shift to
bioprocessing acceptance for the synthesis of APIs and fine
“The biocatalyst is now Almac’s first choice for scale-up
chemistry involving chirality as it provides efficient, clean and
robust processes. The $4m R&D investment demonstrates Almac’s
continued commitment to biocatalysis, supporting further growth in
our expertise and capabilities in biotechnology,” notes Head of
Biocatalysis Dr. Tom Moody.
“Clean-up” application: The latest addition to the application of
Almac biocatalysis expertise is for the “clean-up” of chemical
reactions. Impurities produced in multi-step processes are often
difficult to remove, particularly if they are similar in structure
to the desired product. When crystallisation or partition does not
provide sufficient purity, Almac has used a biocatalytic process to
selectively modify impurities. The impurities are then sufficiently
different in physical properties from the desired product that they
can be removed using conventional separation techniques.
“Biocatalysis provides a mild, regio & chemoselective process to
modify impurities, thus altering their physical properties to
facilitate their removal,” says Tom Moody.