Green manufacturing with marine microbes

August 14, 2009
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Manufacturing methods for new drugs could be made greener and more efficient with the help of marine microbes.

Manufacturing methods for new drugs could be made greener and more efficient with the help of marine microbes. The project, which is being conducted by researchers at Heriot Watt University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory in collaboration with Ingenza Ltd (all UK) will use biochemical techniques to identify potentially useful enzymes in marine microbes.

"We are looking to find naturally occurring microbes that already have a built-in capacity to do the chemical reactions we want to perform in industry," Robert Speight, Operations Director at Ingenza Ltd (UK), explained in a statement. "There is every possibility of developing more efficient and sustainable manufacturing solutions — for pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals in particular — as a result of this search."

The team will be specifically looking for enzymes that can convert compounds — which would previously have been waste products in the manufacturing process — into the desired product. After finding these enzymes, the researchers will attempt to produce them in higher yield by treating the microbes under specific conditions. "The enzymes then undergo systematic testing to evaluate their activity, which enables us to pinpoint candidates that exhibit the best performance," Mark Keane, Director of Postgraduate Research, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University said in the statement.

The work was funded by the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board. In the statement, Doug Kell, Chief Executive Professor of the BBSRC, said: "Green and White biotechnologies are going to be an increasingly important part of the manufacturing landscape. Looking to biological systems that have been finely tuned by evolution to solve problems, rather than starting from scratch every time, might seem an obvious thing to do. It does, however, require the bringing together of particular niche expertise."

www.bbsrc.ac.uk