How does biocatalysis improve the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients?


By Naveen Kulkarni

With the changing era, businesses in all industries are moving towards a more sustainable future. In this scenario, reducing its carbon footprint and identifying sustainable alternatives are essential for many companies, including pharmaceutical manufacturers. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry uses biocatalysis to overcome this obstacle. Several pharmaceutical companies are evaluating biocatalytic techniques in the early stages of drug development to avoid missing opportunities to capitalize on these improvements.

The importance of biocatalysis

Biocatalysis uses organic materials such as enzymes or whole cells to speed up chemical reactions. Biocatalysis is considered one of the most powerful organic synthesis processes due to its exceptional regio-, enantio- and stereoselectivity, as well as its environmental friendliness. Biocatalysis, which uses enzymes to synthesize organic compounds, has become a powerful method for producing active medicinal compounds. Thanks to the recent development of a wide range of supporting technologies, especially in the pharmaceutical research industry, it has become a proven technique for efficient and environmentally friendly production. Although biocatalysis can facilitate transitions from fossil fuels that can create benefits, few chemical manufacturers also face challenges with enzymes and their commercial promotion.

The benefits of using biocatalysis

Biocatalytic treatment has several advantages over conventional approaches. Biocatalysis is both environmentally friendly and cost effective. As there is a growing interest in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives of the Indian government, biocatalysts are playing a vital role in supporting companies with green chemistry initiatives. The approach also improves enantioselectivity and stereoselectivity while requiring fewer synthetic steps and a shorter development cycle. Improved stereoselectivity improves product purity by ensuring that only one stereoisomer responds in the presence of a combination of stereoisomers. The biocatalysis approach, favoring green chemistry, minimizes the consumption of organic solvents and prevents harmful chemical reactions.

Biocatalysis also improves the economy of atoms when two or more moieties on the same molecule can undertake an inevitable reaction, the biocatalytic process ensures that one is consistently chosen over the other. The exceptional selectivity of enzyme catalysts streamlines workflows by creating fewer by-products and reducing contaminants, significantly reducing the total number of synthesis steps required. The challenges of biocatalysis

Despite the fact that biocatalysts are generally very active and incredibly selective, there are significant challenges. For example, enzyme evolution is a long and expensive process. Screening a huge population of variations requires high-throughput infrastructure, which is not always available, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, and is inaccessible to small biotechnology companies. Additionally, lack of biocatalyst design capability, stability constraints, and scarcity of well-characterized, ready-to-use biocatalysts have slowed their acceptance.

Biocatalysis, like other applied sciences, is driven by basic science. Despite remarkable advances in and around the field of biocatalysis, it has been established that a recurring and unsolved problem makes biocatalysis more predictive. However, advancements in technology translate into good patterns and expand the opportunity to fill the gaps for future growth.

Assistance of technology in advancement

The development of numerous supporting technologies has been crucial both in expanding the potential of biocatalytic processing and in driving its adoption throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Improvements in gene extraction techniques have enabled the discovery of previously unknown gene clusters, while developments in heterologous expression and manufacturing have allowed encoded enzymes to be rapidly scaled up and evaluated as chemical synthesis instruments.

Building on this success, recombinant technologies have played a key role in improving the performance of biocatalytic reagents, for example by reducing the amount of enzyme needed to drive a reaction while increasing the yield. It has also been possible to create enzymes that work successfully in organic solvents, greatly increasing the number of potential reactions. Other technological advances have improved the immobilization efficiency of enzymes on solid substrates such as glass, silicon or any other polymer. This facilitates the removal of enzyme residues from the intended product and ensures the reuse of high-turnover enzymes without compromising activity. So, in the strictest sense, with the help of technology, biocatalysis tools improve the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients

Paving the way to the future!

With the introduction of biological processes and continued advances in enzyme engineering, the field of biocatalysis is expanding. Additionally, by using biocatalysis, companies are building an industrial biotechnology process to increase the sustainability of active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing and create production processes that compete with alternative low-cost economic producers. It also offers tremendous benefits, such as lower costs, faster time to market, and breakthrough technical advantages for long-term competitive advantage. Essentially, the biocatalysis technique improves the manufacturing of active medicinal ingredients.

(The author is a CEO, Quantumzyme. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of


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