PerspectiveChemistry

Getting the Farm Out of Pharma for Heparin Production

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Science  28 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6055, pp. 462-463
DOI: 10.1126/science.1211605

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Summary

Heparins derived from animal sources have been used effectively as anticoagulants for more than 70 years. However, a recent contamination scare (1, 2) has highlighted the difficulties of monitoring the quality control and safety of such complex natural products. This issue has been at least partially addressed by more stringent testing requirements (3), but there is now a clear drive to find alternatives to animal sources of heparin (4). Synthetic chemistry has provided one approach, but this route is difficult and its products are expensive, especially for larger heparin saccharides. On page 498 of this issue, Xu et al. (5) describe a tractable chemoenzymatic approach that could dramatically alter the landscape for producing these kinds of products as alternatives to conventional heparins and as a new class of therapeutics for a number of disease areas.