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NIST Renews Award To IBC Advanced Technologies Inc. For Novel Isomer Separation Technology

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced that it will renew a multiyear research award under the Advanced Technology Program to IBC Advanced Technologies Inc. (American Fork, Utah) to develop a novel technology to separate, recover and purify enantiomers (left-handed or right-handed molecules) from mixtures, with applications in pharmaceuticals and other speciality chemicals.

The NIST award renewal is for $669,884. The original three-year project, begun in 1995, was projected to receive a total of approximately $2 million in ATP funding, matched by approximately $1,042,000 in industry funding.

Advanced Technology Program awards are designed to help industry pursue risky, challenging technologies that have the potential for a big pay-off for the nation’s economy. ATP projects focus on enabling technologies that will create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants but other companies and industries--and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. The ATP’s cost-shared funding enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

Detailed information on this project, Non-Chromatographic Enantiomer Separation and Purification with High Separation Factors, is provided below.

Non-Chromatographic Enantiomer Separation and Purification with High Separation Factors

As Alice discovered, the side of the mirror that you're on is extremely important, and this is particularly true in the pharmaceutical industry. Many biologically active molecules come in mirror images, right- and left-handed, and often only one of the two exhibits the desired properties. In the drug methorphan, for example, the dextro-isomer is effective for cough/cold suppression, while the levo-isomer is a potent narcotic. Other examples include antibiotics such as amoxycillin, ACE-inhibitors captopril and enalapril, the artificial sweetener phenylalanine, the pain-killer ibuprofen, and many more. Beyond pharmaceuticals, there are important markets for "enantiomerically pure" (or "chiral"—only one side of the mirror) molecules in the manufacture of pure chemicals, pesticides, biochemicals, flavors, and aromas. In some cases, natural processes can be used to produce enantiomerically pure compounds, but some molecules are too complex or too expensive for this route to be commercially practical. The alternative is to synthesize the desired molecules in enantiomerically mixed ("racemic") batches and separate out the desired half. However, separation technologies—predominantly using chromatography—are difficult and expensive as well. IBC Advanced Technologies proposes a novel approach to large-scale separation of enantiomers from racemic mixtures using molecular recognition technology. Tailored chiral molecules would be chemically bound to a solid substrate and immersed in the racemic mixture. The chiral host should bind chemically to the product molecule but "prefer" and bind more readily to one enantiomer over the other. A simple chemical process then releases the product molecules from the hosts, which can be reused—the process could be repeated for several passes to get the desired degree of separation. IBC has considerable experience in using similar systems to separate ions from solutions. The ATP project will focus on the challenging problem of developing suitable chiral hosts and the methods for attaching them to substrates without changing their chiral-selective properties. If successful, the process would enable rapid, highly efficient on-line separation of racemic mixtures in large volumes.

IBC Advanced Technologies, Inc.
American Fork, UT

Technologies: Separation Technology

Project length: 3 years

ATP funds: $2,000 K

Cost-shared funds (est.): $1,042 K

Total project funds (est.): $3,042 K

Contact: Steven R. Izatt, (801) 763-8400

Released November 3, 1997, Updated November 27, 2017