Reactor Selection for Effective Continuous Biocatalytic Production of Pharmaceuticals

Rowan M. Lindeque, John M. Woodley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Enzyme catalyzed reactions are rapidly becoming an invaluable tool for the synthesis of many active pharmaceutical ingredients. These reactions are commonly performed in batch, but continuous biocatalysis is gaining interest in industry because it would allow seamless integration of chemical and enzymatic reaction steps. However, because this is an emerging field, little attention has been paid towards the suitability of different reactor types for continuous biocatalytic reactions. Two types of continuous flow reactor are possible: continuous stirred tank and continuous plug-flow. These reactor types differ in a number of ways, but in this contribution, we focus on residence time distribution and how enzyme kinetics are affected by the unique mass balance of each reactor. For the first time, we present a tool to facilitate reactor selection for continuous biocatalytic production of pharmaceuticals. From this analysis, it was found that plug-flow reactors should generally be the system of choice. However, there are particular cases where they may need to be coupled with a continuous stirred tank reactor or replaced entirely by a series of continuous stirred tank reactors, which can approximate plug-flow behavior. This systematic approach should accelerate the implementation of biocatalysis for continuous pharmaceutical production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number262
Issue number3
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


  • Continuous process
  • Enzyme
  • Residence time distribution
  • Kinetics
  • Reactor selection
  • Biocatalysis
  • Flow chemistry


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