ISPE Glossary of Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Terminology

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Conversion of one chemical into another by living organisms, as opposed to their conversion by enzymes (which is biotransformation) or by chemical processes. The usefulness of bioconversion is much the same as that of biotransformation – in particular its extreme specificity and ability to work in moderate conditions. However, bioconversion has several other properties, including the possibility of having several chemical steps. A major commercial application is in the manufacture of steroids.

The “basic” steroid molecule, often isolated from plants, is itself a very complicated molecule, and not one that is easy to modify by normal chemical means to produce the very specific molecules needed for drug use. However, a particular type of bioconversion that attacks only specific bits of the molecule can be used. Bioconversion is particularly useful for introducing chemical changes at specific points in large, complex molecules.

Publication Source: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Publication Date: 1999

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