New Organic Catalyst Should Improve Drug Development, Lower Costs

October 3, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Chemists at Oregon State University have developed a new “organocatalyst” that will play a major role in new drug development, greatly reducing costs while making the process more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly.

This catalyst, named “Hua Cat” after one of the researchers who helped create it, should soon be commercially available for use in the field of “chiral” chemistry – the basis for about 90 percent of all new drug development, and applicable to medications used in everything from heart disease to cancer. This is already a $500 million industry with rapid growth, and has been projected to surpass $5 billion within five years.

Discussions are already under way with an Oregon company for commercial production of the compound, and a major pharmaceutical brand has already expressed interest. The findings were just published in Organic Letters, a professional journal, based on work that was originally supported by the National Institutes of Health. Current support for this work has been obtained through the Oregon Venture Fund, a new commercialization program that chose Hua Cat as one of its first funding recipients.

“We invented this almost out of necessity, because we were working on a natural product called lycopodine in which no existing catalyst was effective and we needed something new,” said Rich Carter, an associate professor of chemistry at OSU. “It was only after we developed it that we realized the potential it had for the whole field of drug development. The advance should be of considerable value to the pharmaceutical industry, it’s really pretty exciting.”

Catalysts are chemical compounds that help facilitate other chemical reactions without themselves being consumed – in industrial production, they can be used over and over. Most medicinal drugs are based on what are called chiral molecules, which are like two mirror images that fit together, similar to a lock and key, or a right hand shaking another person’s right hand. To create such drugs, molecules are often induced to become chiral through the use of a catalyst.

Existing approaches to create these chiral compounds often use toxic metals, which are extremely expensive and sometimes difficult to dispose of as waste. By contrast, an "organocatalyst" such as the one just discovered at OSU is more environmentally friendly and works better with most pharmaceutical drugs, which are also organic molecules. In this case, the catalyst is also far more effective, more stable and less costly to produce. Much of this work was done by Hua Yang, an OSU postdoctoral research associate.

Advances in chiral chemistry have been recognized as extremely important, and were the basis for the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

“The Hua Cat compound should be significantly cheaper than existing compounds in widespread use for drug development,” Carter said. “It’s derived from what essentially are amino acids, soaps and cleaning solvents, which are very inexpensive. And it works better, providing solubility that’s more than 10 times higher than related compounds now being used.”

“The improved solubility and unique chemical reactivity should revolutionize this field,” he continued. “We’re grateful to the OSU Venture Fund and its private donor support in getting the innovation this far.”

Further research is needed to develop methods for large scale production of the compound, researchers said.

Provided by Oregon State University

Explore further: Dietary anti-cancer compound may work by influence on cellular genetics

Related Stories

Compound could become important new antidepressant

February 4, 2010

Chemists at Oregon State University have discovered and synthesized a new compound that in laboratory and animal tests appears to be similar to, but may have advantages over one of the most important antidepressant medications ...

New class of anti-bacterial drugs against MRSA discovered

October 2, 2012

Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered a new class of treatment against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as evidence of a growing need to quickly genotype individual strains of ...

Recommended for you

Controlling ice formation

March 24, 2017

(Phys.org)—Researchers have demonstrated that ice crystals will grow along straight lines in a controlled way on microgrooved surfaces. Compared to the random formation of ice crystals on smooth surfaces, the ice on the ...

Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf

March 24, 2017

An international team of astronomers has identified a record breaking brown dwarf (a star too small for nuclear fusion) with the 'purest' composition and the highest mass yet known. The object, known as SDSS J0104+1535, is ...

In a quantum race everyone is both a winner and a loser

March 24, 2017

Our understanding of the world is mostly built on basic perceptions, such as that events follow each other in a well-defined order. Such definite orders are required in the macroscopic world, for which the laws of classical ...

Scientists make new discovery about bird evolution

March 24, 2017

In a new paper published in National Science Review, a team of scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature, and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2008
lower costs to the drug companies, NOT us.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.