Research Highlights

The Integrated Catalysts Can Simplify Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

2020-02-20 188

[Prof. In Su Lee and his research team from POSTECH developed catalytic platforms based on metal organic frameworks.]


The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 30th of January (GMT). The world is in fear of the international spread of the novel coronavirus infections. Rapid distribution of medicines including anti-virus are demanded, however, it is very challenging to mass produce them in a short period of time due to complicated process of drug manufacturing. In the midst of this, a research team from POSTECH successfully developed catalytic nanoreactors that could simplify the manufacturing process of fine chemicals such as drugs and medicines.

The research team consisted of Dr. Soumen Dutta and Prof. In Su Lee from POSTECH Department of Chemistry successfully incorporated three different functionalities of catalysts into a single metal organic framework (MOF) nanoplatform. They also demonstrated multistep cascade reactions, which produce final products in excellent yields and high optical activity, through synergistic effects of catalytic substances located within nano distance.

Pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing goes through series of synthesis and separation multistep process and requires expensive costs and long time for processing. Especially, catalysts used in each synthetic step most often time deactivate reactivity and selectivity of each other. So, it is very challenging and essential task to simplify the process by developing integration of different catalysts while maintaining their reactivity and stability.

The research team synthesized a mesoporous metal-organic framework (MOF) with nano size pores (20~40nm) through the self-assembly of metal ions and organic ligands. Then, they created multimodal catalytic nanoreactors (MCNRs) by introducing metal nanoparticle catalysts and enzymes to the mesopores in phases. They verified that metal ions, nanoparticles, and enzymes allocated in the mesopores near MCNRs do not impede catalytic functionalities of each other but perform multistep cascade chemical reactions efficiently.


The first author of the paper, Dr. Soumen Dutta said, “We were able to demonstrate the chemical manufacturing process, which requires multistep procedures, in a simplified procedure with a single catalyst. This can lead to simplifying manufacturing process of fine chemical products such as drugs which need high optical selectivity.”

Prof. In Su Lee also showed his anticipation and said, “This can change the chemical process to eco-friendly that can use less solvents and energy used in separating intermediates. Especially, by reducing the number of chemical reaction steps, we can shorten the time needed for developing vaccines that can respond to a virus. It will also lower the production cost of drugs and prices.”

This research accomplishment was released in the online version of Angewandte Chemie International Edition, which is the most prominent journal in the field of chemistry and applied chemistry. The research was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea.