Pharmaceutical giant Almac has been awarded $200,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to reduce the cost of components used in women's health treatments.
The work by the Craigavon-based business will involve biocatalysis, the chemical process in which enzymes or other biological catalysts cause reactions between organic components.
Almac hopes to ultimately reduce the cost of key materials in contraceptive products from almost $200,000 per kg to just $5,000 per kg, which it says will make a big difference in treating patients in the developing world.
The BMGF was set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda. It has donated a total of $1m to the project.
Almac's idea was developed by Dr Stefan Mix, head of biocatalysis. He will now lead a team of three scientists through the initial proof-of-concept stage.
Dr Mix said: "Biocatalysis has firmly established itself as key technology in the pharmaceutical sector for more efficient and sustainable manufacturing processes, which in turn enable lower drug prices.
"Almac has been pursuing this technology for many years, rewarded by its successes with rapid development of new medicines and better processes for existing drugs. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the BMGF in deploying Almac's biocatalysis expertise to make essential medicines more affordable."
The Almac group currently employs more than 5,600 people at bases in Craigavon, Europe, the US and Asia.