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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2001 Aug 5;74(3):256-63.

A two-step enzymatic resolution process for large-scale production of (S)- and (R)-ethyl-3-hydroxybutyrate.

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IMI (TAMI) Institute for R&D, POB 10140, Haifa 26111, Israel.


An efficient two-step enzymatic process for production of (R)- and (S)-ethyl-3-hydroxybutyrate (HEB), two important chiral intermediates for the pharmaceutical market, was developed and scaled-up to a multikilogram scale. Both enantiomers were obtained at 99% chemical purity and over 96% enantiomeric excess, with a total process yield of 73%. The first reaction involved a solvent-free acetylation of racemic HEB with vinylacetate for the production of (S)-HEB. In the second reaction, (R)-enriched ethyl-3-acetoxybutyrate (AEB) was subjected to alcoholysis with ethanol to derive optically pure (R)-HEB. Immobilized Candida antarctica lipase B (CALB) was employed in both stages, with high productivity and selectivity. The type of butyric acid ester influenced the enantioselectivity of the enzyme. Thus, extending the ester alkyl chain from ethyl to octyl resulted in a decrease in enantiomeric excess, whereas using bulky groups such as benzyl or t-butyl, improved the enantioselectivity of the enzyme. A stirred reactor was found unsuitable for large-scale production due to attrition of the enzyme particles and, therefore, a batchwise loop reactor system was used for bench-scale production. The immobilized enzyme was confined to a column and the reactants were circulated through the enzyme bed until the targeted conversion was reached. The desired products were separated from the reaction mixture in each of the two stages by fractional distillation. The main features of the process are the exclusion of solvent (thus ensuring high process throughput), and the use of the same enzyme for both the acetylation and the alcoholysis steps. Kilogram quantities of (S)-HEB and (R)-HEB were effectively prepared using this unit, which can be easily scaled-up to produce industrial quantities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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