US company Codexis has acquired Germany's Juelich Fine Chemicals, one of Europe's leading producers of specialty enzymes or biocatalysts for the production of chiral pharmaceutical intermediates.
Biocatalysts are used to simplify and lower the cost of a variety of chemical transformations and are of particular interest in manufacturing chiral or single-enantiomer compounds. Codexis said that JFC's portfolio of enzymes and intermediates would complement its own activities in using biological techniques for the synthesis of drugs.
"We believe [the acquisition] will accelerate adoption of Codexis' biocatalytic approach to pharmaceutical process research and manufacturing, an area historically dominated by synthetic organic chemistry," said Alan Shaw, CEO of the US firm.
An effective biocatalytic process can often replace several chemical steps using conventional approaches, as its high specificity for the substrate in the reaction can remove the need for protection and deprotection procedures. Biocatalysts also have the advantages of allowing reactions to be carried out under milder conditions and removing the need for elevated temperatures and/or noxious chemicals.
JFC will now operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Codexis, and boost the US company's presence in the European market, said Shaw. The financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but Codexis said JFC would make a positive cash contribution in the first year.
The German company offers a range of off-the-shelf specialty enzymes and chiral intermediates, and will also serve as an outlet for several of Codexis' proprietary enzymes. As a result, the acquisition will allow Codexis to focus on finding new customers for its MolecularBreeding technology, used to speed up the development of improved or novel processes for cost-effective synthesis using biocatalysts and novel production strains.
Codexis has already signed more than 10 agreements with pharmaceutical partners. One of the more significant of these was with Pfizer last year, which saw the adoption of Codexis DNAShuffling technology - used to generate libraries of novel genes or genomes and recombine the DNA - across its process R&D for small molecule drugs. The company has also signed biocatalyst deals with Lonza, Sandoz and Teva, amongst others.
A recent report published by Frost & Sullivan predicted that the market for chiral compounds destined for the drug industry will rise from $7.0 billion (€5.3bn) in 2002 to $14.9 billion in 2009. In 2002, 55 per cent of chiral compounds were generated by traditional resolution technologies, 35 per cent by chemocatalysis and 10 per cent by biocatalysis.
Meanwhile, F&S also predicted that global sales of chiral compounds will reach $8.57bn by the end of 2004 and $14.94bn by end-2009, an 11.4 per cent annual growth rate.