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Lee-Parsons Receives 2020 ACORN Innovation Award

ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons received a 2020 ACORN Innovation Award from The Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center for her project entitled “The Production of Chemotherapeutic Drugs from the Periwinkle Plant”.

Vinblastine (VBL) and vincristine (VCR) are chemotherapeutic drugs in critical supply globally, currently obtained through a semi-synthetic process involving the initial purification of the more abundant precursors in the leaves, catharanthine (C) and vindoline (V), and followed by a reaction that combines these precursors. These essential medicines are extremely expensive and their supply limited and unpredictable, as it depends on the C and V produced that year from field-grown plants. In this invention, the plants are grown under controlled, special conditions that increase the production of the precursors in the leaves and these leaves are then treated or processed so that C and V react enzymatically under special conditions to produce the anti-cancer drugs via a simpler, greener process that reduces production cost and yields a predictable and consistent supply of these essential medicines. The Acorn funds will be used to obtain data to ascertain how competitive the enzymatic process is compared to the semisynthetic process and improve the enzymatic conversion of the precursors to VBL and VCR by optimizing the reaction conditions.

The MA Acorn Innovation Fund is intended to support the demonstration of the viability of a technology developed at Massachusetts research universities. Awards could be used to further develop a prototype or to gather additional data to demonstrate proof of concept or to obtain data that shows how the technology compares to existing technologies and what the competitive advantages are.

Related Faculty: Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering