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New £8.5M project to develop green chemicals

23 Sep 2015

The University of Manchester is part of a multi-million pound project to produce chemicals for the food industry that are more environmentally friendly.

These innovations, being led by DSM Chemical Technology R&D BV, will then be used to make safer and more effective drugs and to develop chemicals for the perfume industry and flavourings for the food industry. University of Manchester academics are leading research into drug metabolism as part of the project.

The £8.5m Horizon 2020 EU project, ROBOX, is a partnership of companies and universities from across Europe. Together they will develop sustainable alternatives to industrial oxidation utilising innovative biocatalysts and just air in a safe and green way that is not currently available to the industry. 

These developments will have several environmental and safety advantages over conventional chemical manufacturing methods presently applied in industry.

Chemical oxidations are hazardous processes using the worst chemicals, toxic metals and very environmentally damaging solvents. It is one of the dirtiest aspects of chemical manufacturing and biocatalysis not only offers cleaner production methods but can also deliver improved products.

Professor Nicholas Turner from The University of Manchester will lead the initiative for the use of these novel techniques to produce drug metabolites that will be used to make new drugs better and safer.

Professor Turner said: “A lot of the processes we use currently are expensive and not very cost effective. This is a unique opportunity for academic groups to work alongside chemical companies and specialist SMEs to develop innovative biocatalytic processes for applying oxidation for chemical synthesis. We believe that challenging problems of this nature are best solved on a pan-European basis by bringing together under one roof the combined expertise of many groups to establish a world-class research hub in biocatalysis and sustainable chemical synthesis.”