Drug Development Consortium
Drugs can be designed and then synthesized in small batches for testing in the laboratory. However, commercial and medical success requires mass production of drugs to treat patients nationally and worldwide. The final product must be large quantities of pure drug produced in a cost-effective manner. Study of both the chemical reactions used to create drugs and the subsequent processes employed to purify them are well represented among CD4 research and educational activities.
The "simple" drugs of the past, such as aspirin, estrogen and many chemotherapeutics, could be produced using conventional chemical reaction technology, but the new generation of biotechnology drugs, such as insulin, erythropoietin and DNA vaccines, gain their great specificity and potency through complex molecular structures. This has led to the use of biocatalysis to produce these complex molecules with exactly the right structure and very few by-products. We are manipulating enzymes found in nature and produced by genetic engineering to mimic those that naturally produced molecules in the body. We are also creating novel biocatalysts using an approach called directed evolution.
Despite the specificity of many drug reaction chemistries, most products have to be further processed to remove unwanted and sometimes dangerous by-products. We have particular expertise in using supercritical fluids that can purify drugs without the need for environmentally-damaging organic solvents. We are also controlling crystallization processes to provide pure crystals of, for example, the anit-AIDS drug Crixivan. By designing novel membranes we can isolate drugs, such as ibuprofen, from mixtures containing other undesired molecules.