Innovation and Partnerships Office

Synthetic Production of 2-Pyrrolidone EJIB-3307


Sustainable production of 2-Pyrrolidone used as a

  • building block for active pharmaceutical ingredients
  • solvent found in water-based ink
  • solvent for membrane filters
  • polymer precursor


  • Lower cost production method compared to available technologies
  • Requires less harsh reaction conditions
  • More environmentally-friendly synthesis technology than currently available


Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a more efficient biological pathway for the synthesis of 2-Pyrrolidone, which plays an extremely important role in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and serves as a foundation for polymer synthesis. Current production of this compound requires costly catalysts and harsh reaction conditions, which limit the amount of 2-Pyrrolidone successfully made available for industry use. By genetically modifying a host cell to synthesize 2-Pyrrolidone through several enzymatic reactions, production costs can be significantly decreased while improving the environmental impact of the process.

This method of production requires a genetically modified host cell to either uptake or produce glutamate, the compound from which 2-Pyrrolidone can be derived. Two sequential enzymatic reactions must then occur before the final product can be extracted from the cell. Conversion of glutamate into 2-Pyrrolidone is at a rate of about 25%, which is a vast improvement over the less efficient methods currently in use. Synthesis through this method does not require harsh chemical catalysts, decreasing production costs and increasing availability of the compound.

STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle.