Chemistry research leads to cleaner, greener business

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HydRegen Ltd uses a new sustainable and environmentally friendly chemistry technology to produce products for the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food industries.

The spin-out company, HydRegen Ltd, has been founded by Professor Kylie Vincent and Dr Holly Reeve, at the University of Oxford.

Long-term support from UK Research and Innovation led to the development of the novel technology that offers cleaner, safer, faster chemical production. Key funding included:

  • early career development for Professor Vincent through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Physical Sciences Inspire Programme
  • a five-year translation grant funded by EPSRC, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK through the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst fund
  • EPSRC funding for doctoral students that included working with multinational companies.

Enzymes as catalysts

The new technology allows producers of chemicals to get rid of toxic heavy metals, currently used as catalysts in the production of a range of products, which can be extremely environmentally damaging. Instead of heavy metal catalysts, the technology uses enzymes as catalysts.

Although the use of enzymes is already established in areas of chemical manufacturing, the new technology is unique in using hydrogen as an energy source to regenerate ‘co-factors’. These are the biological molecules needed to drive the action of enzymes.

Replacing metal catalysts with enzymes, powered by hydrogen, will lower the amount of energy used in traditional methods of manufacture and minimise waste production. An added benefit is that the whole system is reusable as well.

Professor Vincent says:

We are focusing on tackling challenges in the fine chemicals sectors for synthesis of pharmaceuticals, flavour and fragrance molecules, where our technologies lower energy demands, increase product purity and enable continuous flow processes.

HydRegen was incorporated in 2020 before being formally spun in May 2021, with support from Oxford University Innovation.

Last updated: 19 May 2021

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