Sustainable and green upscaling processes for peptide(-based) in vitro diagnostics and cosmeceuticals

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Ines Neundorf, University of Cologne

Participating universities: University of Cologne, University of Florence, Semmelweis University, University of Birmingham

General overview

Peptides are important key players in many biological systems and metabolic pathways. They are increasingly gaining interest not only as active pharmaceutical ingredients but also in the field of cosmetic chemistry, in diagnostics, and as biomaterials owing to their ease of synthesis and possibility of modification. Also, peptides provide safe and non-toxic alternatives to the higher molecular weight proteins.

Within this project, we aim to foster new and more sustainable chemical strategies for the large-scale production of (small) peptides and peptidomimetics to be provided at lower cost for preclinical studies. Therefore, we want to explore alternative synthetic approaches using biofriendly solvents that are energy-efficient and reduce generated waste. To shorten the general process of upscaling would promote a sustainable wellness economy and eco-friendly environment.

Purpose and Significance

For clinical studies large amounts of active peptide ingredients are needed. Also, upscaling processes are critical in streamlining the development of bioactive peptides and, if unsuccessful, may hamper the whole translation from bench to bedside. 

This project will provide novel and innovative synthesis methodologies that specifically engage in green and sustainable production pathways. Our results will promote the transfer of technology of peptides, i.e. valorisation, in two specific fields where peptides are successfully developed, e.g. as cosmeceuticals and diagnostics.

Implementation Method and Timeline

We will use and develop novel synthesis approaches for the generation of bioactive small peptides and peptidomimetics. For instance, continuous-flow techniques provide a rapid and straightforward strategy for large-scale production. Moreover, to establish greener and sustainable synthesis processes we will investigate different solvent mixtures, suitable protecting groups and matching resins. First, the novel methodologies will be evaluated on a small-scale level using microwave-assisted synthesis in comparison with conventional methods. The newly generated compounds will then be tested for their activity.

Expected Outcomes

Within this project, we will explore green chemical processes and the use of green chemicals to obtain large amounts of bioactive peptides to be used in preclinical studies. The use of sustainable chemistry is not only better for the environment, but also more economical and effective in several cases. Faster synthesis can be carried out by continuous-flow methods highly reducing the amounts of needed reagents and solvents. The results of our scientific studies will underpin the growth of this important field in the framework of a sustainable wellness economy and environment.