Navigation path

Countries
Countries
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece
  Hungary
  Iceland
  India
  Ireland
  Israel
  Italy
  Jamaica
  Japan
  Kazakhstan
  Kenya
  Korea
  Latvia
  Lithuania
  Luxembourg
  Malta
  Mexico
  Morocco
  Netherlands
  Nigeria
  Norway
  Peru
  Poland
  Portugal
  Romania
  Russia
  Senegal
  Serbia
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
  South Africa
  Spain
  Sri Lanka
  Swaziland
  Sweden
  Switzerland
  Taiwan
  Tunisia
  Turkey
  Uganda
  Ukraine
  United Kingdom
  United States

Themes
Agriculture & food
Energy
Environment
ERA-NET
Health & life sciences
Human resources & mobility
Industrial research
Information society
Innovation
International cooperation
Nanotechnology
Pure sciences
Research infrastructures
Research policy
Science & business
Science in society
Security
SMEs
Social sciences and humanities
Space
Special Collections
Transport


   Headlines

Last Update: 25-03-2013  
Related category(ies):
Industrial research  |  Success stories

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  France  |  Germany  |  Italy  |  Poland  |  Spain  |  United Kingdom
Add to PDF "basket"

Using simpler synthesis and greener chemistry to improve medicines

An estimated 170 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C, which kills more than 350,000 every year from related illnesses like liver cancer. There is no vaccine for it, and treatments are costly thanks to the complicated chemistry used to make the drugs. However, if a way was found to simplify and speed up the manufacture of hepatitis C drugs, it could slash the costs of treatment and at a stroke promise to wipe out the insidious killer disease.

©  Fotolia

And that is what a European Union research project has been doing: improving the chemical processes used in making pharmaceuticals and plastics. EUMET, a four-year project backed by a €3.6 million EU grant, has made the process of synthesising compounds simpler, more efficient and greener.

EUMET is working on the same principles pioneered by the three scientists who won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Chemistry: a reaction process called olefin metathesis.

Metathesis, which means to change places, allows groups of atoms to be moved efficiently from one molecule to another. “Metathesis is very simple and appealing: it is a beautiful way of assembling molecules,” says EUMET’s project coordinator, Steven Nolan, the Chair in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. It allows double bonds to be broken and made between carbon atoms, he says. “The chemical reaction is like a dance in which one couple exchanges partners with another. We make the exchange go faster by using novel catalysts.”

EUMET, set to run until November 2012, gathers nine European leaders in metathesis from various areas: led by Nolan at St Andrews, it includes the University of Salerno, Italy; University of Warsaw, Poland; Liebniz University of Hannover, Germany; Technical University of Graz, Austria; Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Rennes, France; Umicore, Germany; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Belgium; and IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN), France.

It was at Janssen that the hepatitis C breakthrough occurred. Thanks to EUMET research, the company is now on the verge of validating an affordable oral pill treatment, which is due to market in 2013. “This is a life changer that could affect millions,” says Nolan. Using metathesis, Janssen catalysed what would otherwise have been a convoluted, expensive and resource heavy process. “Without metathesis, it would need a completely different synthetic approach with at least 10 supplementary synthetic steps, a huge increase in cost and time,” Nolan adds.

Since the molecules involved in metathesis are the basis of industries as diverse as petrochemicals and drugs, this methodology has a potentially huge practical impact. Within EUMET, IFPEN has used metathesis to develop a process to manufacture molecules that can be used to synthesise detergents; Umicore is selling the catalysts; and most recently the technology has been used to develop new battery technologies. Other potential benefits include advanced herbicides, additives for polymers and fuels, and research into new treatments for bacterial infection, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, migraine and HIV.

Furthermore, as Nolan notes, metathesis is a step towards green and sustainable chemistry, reducing waste through smarter production. “We hope industry and science will take a close look at metathesis because Europe could really benefit from this technology,” he says.

Project details

  • Project acronym: EUMET
  • Participants: United Kingdom (Coordinator), France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium
  • Project FP7 211468
  • Total costs: € 5 409 094
  • EU contribution: € 3 598 626
  • Duration: August 2008 - October 2012

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Project web site
Project information on CORDIS





  Top   Research Information Center