The Indox project – which is funded by the EC’s 7th Framework Programme – launched last October with the aim of identifying the enzymes certain fungi and bacteria use to catalyse oxidation and reduction (REDOX) reactions and optimising them for the chemical industry.
The team are using a variety of genomic techniques to find the genes responsible for encoding the oxidoreductases of interest and inserting them into host cell line expression systems for further testing and modification.
Cost and specificity
Spokeswoman Marta Perez-Boada told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “Pharmaceutical companies and their suppliers would benefit from the smart production of intermediates for APIs by enzymatic synthesis compared to current chemical processes that are often more costly and less specific.”
Perez-Boada explained that these oxidoreductases have a large number of applications in the chemical sector, citing the synthesis of chiral compounds as a drug-industry relevant example that could replace costly and often long chemical routes involving expensive reagents.
“The use of enzymes in industrial processes offers and environmentally-friendly alternative to the use of harsh chemicals and operating conditions that often require large amounts of energy and lead to problematic wastes.
“Moreover, enzymes are reusable and in many cases are highly specific towards the desired transformation therefore avoiding the formation of undesirable by-products.”
Work on industrialising these enzymes is still at an early stage according to Perez-Boada, who explained that: “The oxidoreductases under investigation in Indox have been mainly tested at the lab scale but most of them need to be further optimized and adapted to stay active under the rigorous conditions usually employed in industrial processes.”
The indox team are still working on a way of producing the enzymes in sufficient quantities for industrial she continued, adding that: “The availability of cost-effective production systems for some of these enzymes is also a bottleneck that needs to be overcome.”
Despite this Perez-Boada said she is still confident the Indox team can help convince the chemical sector of the benefits of using these enzymes, explaining that: “Our final aim after three years will be to provide relevant case stories to demonstrate the efficacy of optimized and cost-effective oxidative biocatalysts on targeted industrial reactions.