New production method to cut costs of meningitis drugs

The weakened immune system in people with HIV/AIDS makes them particularly vulnerable to fungal infections such as cryptococcal meningitis, which can be deadly. The medicine used to treat the condition is flucytosine, and EU-funded researchers have developed a new and more efficient way of producing it. This will cut production costs, making it more affordable for people in low-income countries.

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 26 April 2017  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesDrugs & drug processes
Innovation
Research policySeventh Framework Programme
Special CollectionsAids - HIV
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Finland  |  Germany  |  Netherlands  |  Switzerland  |  United Kingdom
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New production method to cut costs of meningitis drugs

Image of a large number of pills

© Gundolf Renze - fotolia.com

Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) leads to 625 000 deaths every year, and kills more people with HIV/AIDS than any other infection. The majority of cases are in sub-Saharan Africa. The best possible treatment for CM is currently a combination of flucytosine and amphotericin B. Flucytosine is not however registered for use anywhere in Africa, and therefore cannot be prescribed. It is also very expensive, as production involves a sequence of four chemical reactions.

Cutting back on chemical reactions

The CHEM21 project is funded under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a partnership between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry. The project team, bringing together researchers from eight different countries, has managed to cut the number of chemical reactions needed from four to one. The magic ingredient is cytosine – a naturally occurring product found in cells.

Fluorine atoms react with cytosine molecules to create flucytosine in a one-step process. The technique uses significantly less energy and raw materials than the traditional production method, and produces less waste.

A reactor capable of producing 1 kg per day of the raw materials required has already been built, and the next step is to transform this into a medicine that meets international standards.

The results have been published in the journal Organic Process Research & Development (OPR&D).

The new technique could potentially be used in the production of medicines to treat other conditions as flucytosine is also used to create the cancer drug capecitabine and the HIV treatment emtricitabine.

Sustainable science

The aim behind CHEM21 was to develop sustainable biological and chemical alternatives to the finite materials currently used in the manufacture of medicines. Biotechnology can help to reduce the consumption of these resources while cutting costs.

The project is also establishing a European research hub for green chemistry, and developing training packages to ensure that the principles of sustainable manufacturing are passed on to future scientists while they are still in education.

Project details

  • Project acronym: CHEM21
  • Participants: UK (Coordinator), Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, Finland
  • Project N°: 115360
  • Total costs: € 25 927 051
  • EU contribution: € 9 829 638
  • Duration: October 2012 - June 2017

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