Synthesis of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, which are found on the surface of every cell in the human body, play a critical role in human development, growth and health maintenance. Carbohydrates are relevant to many debilitating or life-threatening conditions, including cancer, heart disease, bacterial and viral infections, thrombosis and auto-immune disorders such as arthritis. Alchemia is an Australian success story that began when three scientists, Dr. Tracie Ramsdale, Prof. Peter Andrews and Prof. Istvan Toth, came together in 1995 with a common interest in carbohydrates and a belief in the vital role that these molecules could play in drug development.

Carbohydrates are constructed by linking sugar ‘building blocks’ together. However, there are numerous ways of linking sugar units together, which means a variety of different types of carbohydrates. Herein lies their synthetic complexity. The synthesis of carbohydrates has been, until now, highly labour intensive, requiring very specialised knowledge and a high degree of chemical skill. This has made the use of such compounds cost-prohibitive. Alchemia was founded to develop a novel technology for the cost-effective manufacture of carbohydrates, a process which employs a purely synthetic chemistry methodology. As a result, Alchemia’s research and development activities have resulted in the production of a series of proprietary building blocks which enable the large-scale, economical synthesis of carbohydrates.

The company’s unique carbohydrate chemistry expertise has led to significant developments in the areas of drug manufacturing and drug discovery of carbohydrate-based products. Alchemia is developing a generic version of an existing pharmaceutical, fondaparinux, known by the company as ‘Synthetic Heparin.’ Synthetic Heparin represents Alchemia’s first substantial commercial opportunity, and is the latest innovation in the Heparin family of drugs – a growing US$ 3.0 billion market.

Alchemia’s carbohydrate chemistry expertise is also being applied to the development of products and treatments for areas of unmet medical need including oncology and antibiotics. Alchemia’s advances in carbohydrate synthesis have attracted substantial interest from the scientific community, as well as from leading global biotechnology and manufacturing companies seeking an edge for their drug discovery efforts.