Codexis has appointed a new head of biocatalysis and chemical development, shoring up its expertise in what is a small but fast-growing area of the catalysts market.
James Lalonde will oversee Codexis' R&D activities directed at the application of customised biocatalysts, generated through the company's proprietary MolecularBreeding directed molecular evolution platform, for the production of high-value pharmaceutical chemicals.
Biocatalysts are used to simplify and lower the cost of a variety of chemical transformations and are of particular interest in manufacturing chiral compounds. 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 by removing the need for elevated temperatures and/or noxious chemicals.
Dr Lalonde was one of the founding scientists at Altus Biologics, holding a variety of scientific leadership positions at the company since 1993, most recently as director of biocatalysis and chemical development. Altus Biologics was spun out of Vertex Pharmaceuticals in 1993 to develop and commercialize the company's proprietary protein crystallisation and cross-linking technology for biocatalytic applications.
In this post, Dr Lalonde led a group of organic chemists, microbiologists, and engineers responsible for the development and implementation of biocatalytic organic synthetic processes for small molecule drug synthesis, and during his tenure, he devised, developed and scaled up numerous biocatalytic manufacturing processes in pilot and manufacturing plants in the US, Europe and Asia.
Commenting on his decision to join Codexis, he said that the company "has changed the paradigm for the development of biocatalytic chemical processes."
"No longer does the process need to be designed around a suboptimal biocatalyst from nature, if one can even be found. Codexis can rapidly evolve the biocatalyst required to enable the desired optimal process."
Last year, a report published by Frost & Sullivan predicted that the market for chiral compounds destined for the drug industry will rise from $7.0 billion (€6bn) 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 predicts that global sales of single-enantiomer compounds will reach $8.57 billion by the end of 2004 and $14.94 billion by the end of 2009, an 11.4 per cent annual growth rate.