Sustainable manufacturing of amoxicillin | Our planet | Explore GSK | GlaxoSmithKline

Sustainable manufacturing of amoxicillin

One of the most widely prescribed antibiotics in the world has not traditionally had a very ‘green’ footprint. Amoxicillin, which has been around for 40 years, is usually synthesised using chemical processes that need very low temperatures, and large volumes of organic solvents.

This process results in high levels of waste and energy consumption, as large quantities of liquid nitrogen are needed to create the low temperatures, while the organic solvents need to be recovered and disposed of at the end of the synthesisation process.

As part of our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint by 25% across the business by 2020, we recognised the need to find a ‘greener’ process for making amoxicillin. To this end, a ‘green chemistry’ collaborative team was formed at our amoxicillin manufacturing plant in Singapore, to explore the possibilities of reducing the antibiotic’s footprint.

The team suggested a newer, more environmentally-friendly method of production, using enzymes.

Enzymes are proteins produced by living organisms to act as catalysts for specific chemical reactions. The enzyme we use is cultivated in a fermentation process using bacteria, yeast, and fungi. In the presence of water, it ‘couples’ two starting compounds together to form amoxicillin.


This water-based enzymatic process involves fewer steps and milder conditions (typically ambient/room temperatures) than the traditional chemical process. It also uses far fewer organic solvents, so there is significantly less organic waste.

On 1 November 2012, we announced plans to invest $40-60 million (Singapore dollars) in converting to enzymatic amoxicillin manufacturing at our Quality Road manufacturing site in Singapore. The site, which like amoxicillin itself is celebrating its 40th birthday, was originally built to produce other semi-synthetic penicillins, and started manufacturing amoxicillin in the 1970s.

Moving to the new manufacturing method should result in a reduction of up to 25% in our carbon footprint from the Quality Road site, and a drop in organic waste of approximately 80%, while maintaining high quality standards of production.


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