Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 385–392

Industrial production of β-lactam antibiotics


DOI: 10.1007/s00253-003-1274-y

Cite this article as:
Elander, R.P. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2003) 61: 385. doi:10.1007/s00253-003-1274-y


The industrial production of β-lactam antibiotics by fermentation over the past 50 years is one of the outstanding examples of biotechnology. Today, the β-lactam antibiotics, particularly penicillins and cephalosporins, represent the world's major biotechnology products with worldwide dosage form sales of ~US$ 15 billion or ~65% of the total world market for antibiotics. Over the past five decades, major improvements in the productivity of the producer organisms, Penicillium chrysogenum and Acremonium chrysogenum (syn. Cephalosporium acremonium) and improved fermentation technology have culminated in enhanced productivity and substantial cost reduction. Major fermentation producers are now estimated to record harvest titers of 40–50 g/l for penicillin and 20–25 g/l for cephalosporin C. Recovery yields for penicillin G or penicillin V are now >90%. Chemical and enzymatic hydrolysis process technology for 6-aminopenicillanic acid or 7-aminocephalosporanic acid is also highly efficient (~80–90%) with new enzyme technology leading to major cost reductions over the past decade. Europe remains the dominant manufacturing area for both penicillins and cephalosporins. However, due to ever increasing labor, energy and raw material costs, more bulk manufacturing is moving to the Far East, with China, Korea and India becoming major production countries with dosage form filling becoming more dominant in Puerto Rico and in Ireland.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biotechnology ConsultantLa JollaUSA