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Scientists reveal new method that could reduce waste from drug manufacturing

Scientists reveal new method that could reduce waste from drug manufacturing

The new method could help to prevent severe side effects caused by enantiomer drugs. Scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry have revealed a new sustainable method of manufacturing complex molecules that could reduce waste produced during drug production.

The method published in Nature Chemistry could help to prevent severe side effects caused by drugs that can exist as enantiomers, such as thalidomide, which was prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s.

Enantiomers, otherwise known as left- and right-handed versions, are a pair of chiral molecules that exist in two forms that are mirror images of one another but cannot be superimposed one upon the other. In every other respect, they are chemically identical. The opposite mirror-image form of S.thalidomide interfered with foetal development, causing many babies to be born with severe birth defects.

Supported by the European Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, researchers developed a new method known as asymmetric synthesis to ensure only the left-handed or right-handed versions of chiral molecules are made. The new process works by bonding mixtures of left- and right-handed versions of a starting molecule together to create a single-handed version of a target chemical.

In total, it produced target molecules in yields of up to 100%, producing 100 target molecules for every 100 starting molecules added – double the amount of many traditional methods, which are often limited to a yield of just 50%. The findings could help scientists conduct asymmetric synthesis, potentially impacting various fields of science and technology in which the 3D shape of molecules is key to their function.

Dr David Jones, School of Chemistry, University College Cork, commented: “Our work overturns the previously universally accepted limitation in what types of chiral molecules can be used as the starting materials in asymmetric synthesis.” Andrew Lawrence, professor of organic chemistry, University of Edinburgh, said: “This type of fundamental research is an essential component of what is required to ensure we can develop more sustainable chemical industries.”

April 29, 2024

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