Fife life sciences firm X-Genix in talks with pharma giants to help catalyse drug-development

A company that is spinning out from the University of St Andrews has revealed that it is in talks with global pharmaceutical giants following the development of “cutting-edge” technology it believes could “transform” the way medicines including antibiotics are made.

X-Genix says its team of Fife-based researchers has discovered a new bio-based process for halogenation, which sees chlorine or bromine added to certain molecules in pharmaceutical and agricultural products, and whose overall market is believed to be worth more than $250 billion (£201bn) a year. In the case of a medicine it can help make it more active and improve absorption levels.

The start-up, which plans to move into a purpose-built space at the new Eden Enterprise Hub in Fife later this year, says its process uses naturally occurring enzymes, combined with household substances such as table salt, to create the key carbon-chlorine bond.

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It adds that its offering marks a step up from the traditional process that uses chlorine gas, produced using energy-intensive methods and typically hard to handle, requiring specialist facilities, with the newer technology enabling precision-editing of molecules at any stage of the synthetic process.

Additionally, analysis from the company suggests that, of the top 200 pharma products, two thirds use chlorine as part of the manufacturing process.

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X-Genix has in the past two years secured around £1.5 million in funding to support the development of its technology, including a £15,000 grant from the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) to build the business model and to help the spin-out to become investor-ready.

The start-up’s founder Rebecca Goss, a professor of biomolecular and organic chemistry at the University of St Andrews and AccelerateHER Awards winner, said X-Genix is “now at a particularly exciting juncture” in bringing its process to the wider market.

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The firm is deemed a 'great example of how organic chemistry and bio-based processes can help to improve the sustainability of everyday manufacturing processes' (file image). Picture: contributed.

“We are now in talks with a number of potential partners from across the globe to help enhance the sustainability of their processes and explore how our unique use of enzymes can support future drug-development.”

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Liz Fletcher, director of business engagement at IBioIC said: “X-Genix’s work is a great example of how organic chemistry and bio-based processes can help to improve the sustainability of everyday manufacturing processes and open production opportunities in the UK. This is the first time IBioIC has awarded funding of this kind to a university spin-out.”

From left: team members Montella Simeon-Gordon, PhD student; Rosemary Lynch, head of chemistry; Peter Ming Tong, head of scale up; and the firm's founder Rebecca Goss. Picture: contributed.

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