Merck, Codexis Win Presidential Green Chemistry Award for Novel Catalysis

June 22, 2010
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. & REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Jun 21, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Merck and Codexis, Inc. announced that they have jointly been awarded the annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the development of a novel biocatalytic method for the synthesis of sitagliptin. In addition, a paper co-authored by Merck and Codexis scientists and published online June 17 in the peer-reviewed journal Science, details how an enzyme was systematically customized using Codexis technology to perform the key chemical step in the sitagliptin synthesis process. This process showed improved efficiency and significantly decreased chemical waste byproducts. "Merck has a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability," said Richard Tillyer, Ph.D, head of Drug Discovery and Preclinical Sciences, Merck Research Laboratories. "This award and the recent publication underscore the strength of the innovative science and the productive collaboration with our colleagues at Codexis." The publication in Science outlines how Merck and Codexis collaborated to create a custom enzyme, or biocatalyst, that can allow for commercial-scale manufacturing of sitagliptin. No natural enzyme able to produce this compound was found. Enzymes are biodegradable, renewable and are generally believed to provide a more sustainable means of chemical synthesis than many currently employed methods used for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Evidence suggests that the new process may offer a 10-13 percent overall increase in yield of sitagliptin over the current process and a significant reduction in waste byproducts. "Codexis is honored to receive one of the U.S. government's highest awards for environmental protection with Merck," said Alan Shaw, Ph.D., Codexis President and CEO. "Our proven technology platform is in use around the world, enabling creation of cleaner, more efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. We are committed, with our colleagues at Merck, to leveraging the power of green chemistry for a sustainable environment." About Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are presented annually by the Environmental Protection Agency to recognize new technologies that help prevent pollution by reducing or eliminating hazardous waste in industrial production. It provides recognition of outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use, and that have been or can be utilized by industry in achieving their pollution prevention goals. The award was launched in 1995 in partnership with the chemical industry, the American Chemical Society, the National Academies and other stakeholders. Both Merck and Codexis won awards individually in 2006.