Turning wood into pharmaceutical ingredients 

October 23, 2019

Production of hazardous waste during drug manufacturing is a serious concern for the pharmaceutical industry. Typically, large amounts of flammable solvents are used during these processes, which usually require several steps to make structurally complex drugs. Researchers now report in the journal ACS Central Science a method to produce pharmaceutically relevant compounds in just two or three steps, with water as the only waste product, using renewable woodchips as starting material.

The process takes advantage of the lignin component of wood. Lignin consists of cross-linked phenolic compounds that give wood its strength. During paper production, it is removed from wood to prevent the resulting paper from yellowing, and, counterintuitively, to increase the strength of the paper. This process generates a huge amount of unwanted lignin, so researchers have been studying ways to repurpose the material for many years. While several groups recently developed strategies for depolymerizing lignin, the big question remained: What kind of useful products could be obtained from it? Katalin Barta and colleagues realized that, coincidentally, lignin derivatives share many complex structural features with modern pharmaceuticals, making them ideal starting materials to synthesize potential drug candidates. By exploiting this natural bounty, they could skip the typically laborious and waste-generating steps traditionally needed to create these drugs from petrochemicals.

The team focused on a class of pharmaceuticals known as benzazepines, which include the anti-anxiety drug diazepam. The conventional multistep synthesis using flammable solvents generates roughly equal amounts of waste and benzazepines. But the researchers' new process uses catalytic methods, in combination with solvents that are nontoxic, recyclable and biodegradable, to convert monomers derived from lignin into benzazepine derivatives without producing waste. Several of the new compounds show promising antibacterial or anticancer activity in bacterial and human cells.

The authors acknowledge funding from the European Research Council; the Talent Scheme research program, which is partly funded by the Dutch Research Council; and the Helmholtz Association's Initiative and Networking Fund.

The article is available as an ACS AuthorChoice article here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook
-end-


American Chemical Society

Related Lignin Articles from Brightsurf:

Utilizing a 'krafty' waste product: Toward enhancing vehicle fuel economy
Researchers from Kanazawa University have chemically modified Kraft lignin -- ordinarily considered in the paper industry to be a waste product -- and used it to produce quality carbon fiber.

CRISPRing trees for a climate-friendly economy
Researchers led by prof. Wout Boerjan (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology) have discovered a way to stably finetune the amount of lignin in poplar by applying CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

New process boosts lignin bio-oil as a next-generation fuel
A new low-temperature multi-phase process for upgrading lignin bio-oil to hydrocarbons could help expand use of the lignin, which is now largely a waste product left over from the productions of cellulose and bioethanol from trees and other woody plants.

Lightweight green supercapacitors could charge devices in a jiffy
In a new study, researchers at Texas A&M University have described their novel plant-based energy storage device that could charge even electric cars within a few minutes in the near future.

From biopaste to bioplastic
Forest scientists develop innovative wood-based materials for 3D printing.

Key technology for mass-production of lignin-bio-aviation fuels for reducing greenhouse gas
The team, led by Dr. Jeong-Myeong Ha of the Clean Energy Research Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KIST), has developed a technology that can be used to mass-produce aviation-grade fuels from wood wastes.

Researchers develop sustainable method for extracting vanillin from wood processing waste
Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have developed a new sustainable method of extracting the flavoring agent vanillin from lignin, a component of wood.

A model for better predicting the unpredictable byproducts of genetic modification
Researchers are interested in genetically modifying trees for a variety of applications, from biofuels to paper production.

A novel biofuel system for hydrogen production from biomass
A recent study, affiliated with South Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has presented a new biofuel system that uses lignin found in biomass for the production of hydrogen.

Plastic from wood
The biopolymer lignin is a by-product of papermaking and a promising raw material for manufacturing sustainable plastic materials.

Read More: Lignin News and Lignin Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.