Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Medicinal Chemistry
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Catalysts That Mimic Enzymes Could Revolutionize Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Structures made of polymer chains allow the catalysts to work in water.

Organic catalysts are essential for a number of industrial applications, but their inability to work within the same system or in water means that their efficiency is somewhat limited.

Researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology believe that they may have solved this problem by taking a leaf out of the structure of nature’s own catalysts - enzymes. This could help to make industrial processes such as drug manufacturing both faster and cheaper.

Enzymes are highly selective and effective catalysts, used both in the body and for industrial applications. Their well-defined, compartmentalized three-dimensional structures mean that their active sites are very specific for their particular substrates, making enzyme catalysis extremely efficient.

A crucial characteristic of enzymes is that their outsides are hydrophilic, allowing them to work in the watery environment of the body, while the insides - where the active site is situated - are hydrophobic.

Catalysts used in organic chemistry, on the other hand, are quite different to enzymes. They are typically much smaller molecules that do not have large three-dimensional structures around them, and thus tend to be much less selective. However, it is often the case that these catalysts can stimulate reactions that enzymes cannot.

Is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Dr Anja Palmans of the Eindhoven University of Technology thinks so. “We can mimic the three-dimensional structure of an enzyme using polymer chains,” she explains. “Using what is known as a supramolecular recognition unit, we can fold these chains into compartmentalized architectures much similar to enzymes, which we can then insert a catalytic core into. The folded polymer chain will have a hydrophilic outer surface similar to an enzyme, allowing the synthetic catalyst to work in water.”

The possibilities opened up by this research are numerous. Enzyme-like activity in a completely synthetic system could be used for reaction cascades in which multiple reactions are occurring at once in the same environment.

“When making drugs, for example, the current process involves carrying out one reaction, isolating the product and then purifying the product before moving on to the next reaction and repeating the whole process,” explains Palmans. “This is because standard organic catalysts tend to inhibit or alter each other’s activity and so cannot be used within the same system.”

“However, with these synthetic catalysts the active site is shielded and so they do not interfere with each other. This allows one to have a system in which a number of reactions can be happening simultaneously within a single procedure.”

The Eindhoven University of Technology has been the base of this research, providing a unique multidisciplinary environment that has been fundamental to the success of the work, according to Palmans. “The institute we work in, the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems, was specifically created so that researchers from a number of different disciplines can work within the same building,” she says. “We have polymer chemists to work with the polymer chains, organic chemists to develop the catalysts and supramolecular recognition units, polymer physicists to aid our understanding of the folding and to bring complex methods of analysis, as well as mathematicians who utilize their knowledge of modelling.”

The first experiments on cascade catalytic systems are now running, but the next step will be to relate the structure of the polymers back to the catalytic activity. “We can now shield the catalysts within the polymer; that has been proven,” says Palmans, “but what we really want to do now is to get back to design principals so that we can improve the levels of catalysis. The mathematicians we are working with will be crucial for this step, as their knowledge of models will allow us to work on molecular design.”

It will be another few years before the final results of this intriguing research are published, and it could be that it helps to revolutionize the use of organic catalysts.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,400+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Experimental Drug Cancels Effect from Key Intellectual Disability Gene
A University of Wisconsin—Madison researcher who studies the most common genetic intellectual disability has used an experimental drug to reverse — in mice — damage from the mutation that causes the syndrome.
Doubling Down on Dengue
HMS researchers have discovered two ways a compound blocks dengue virus.
Reprogramming Scorpion Venom
‘Twist of nature’ neutralizes toxin.
Tailoring a Suit for Tumor-Penetrating Cancer Meds
For more than a decade, biomedical researchers have been looking for better ways to deliver cancer-killing medication directly to tumors in the body.
Resurrecting an Abandoned Drug
Previously discarded drug shows promise in helping human cells in a lab dish fight off two different viruses.
Safer, Cheaper, Greener and More Efficient System for Organic Synthesis
The new medium not only supports organic synthesis it also produces considerably higher yields of product than pure organic solvents.
Fighting Prostate Cancer
Identifying the most promising compounds which can be used as medications for prostate cancer.
Collaboration to Develop Cancer Therapeutics
Major license agreement with Merck, enabled by Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, aims to develop therapy for most common form of acute leukemia.
Faster UVA Molecular Analysis Technology
There are people in the world – chemical engineers, astronomers, national defense scientists investigating an explosion – who need to know just what something is made of, down to the molecular level.
Scientists Synthesize Anti-Cancer Agent
A team led by Rice University synthetic organic chemist K.C. Nicolaou has developed a new process for the synthesis of a series of potent anti-cancer agents originally found in bacteria.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,400+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!