Sustainable chemistry in the pharma industry: Greener pastures for those who innovate
With rising sea levels and climate change impacting communities across the globe, industrial nations are looking to manage output and identify processes to reduce their impact on the environment. One approach that has gained momentum since the 1990s is green chemistry, a scientific field focused on "the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances."
In 1998, Paul Anastas and John Warner co-authored a book setting out the 12 principles that form the basis of green chemistry, including a range of ways to reduce the environmental and human impact of chemical production. However, in some industries the adoption of green chemistry practices are seen as an unjustified compromise to profitability.
Making waves in the pharma industry
According to the ACS Green Chemistry Institute, "After all of the research advancements in green chemistry and engineering, mainstream chemical businesses have not yet fully embraced the technology. Today, more than 98% of all organic chemicals are still derived from petroleum." As the green chemistry movement continues to influence policy, business practices and consumer perception, companies must find new ways to "go green" while maintaining their bottom line. This is particularly true in the pharmaceutical industry.
In 2005, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute formed the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable to "encourage innovation while catalyzing the integration of green chemistry and green engineering in the pharmaceutical industry." Members of the Roundtable include AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi and Takeda, among others.
The involvement of so many well-known pharmaceutical companies is encouraging, particularly as the industry has historically been resistant to altering proven manufacturing and research methods. Although the adoption of green chemistry principles could be viewed as an additional hurdle for an industry already challenged with the regulatory issues, intellectual property demands and fail fast requirements, pharma companies are beginning to realize the efficiencies and cost-savings it offers.
By applying the atom economy principle of green chemistry (i.e., synthetic methods should be designed to maximize incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product) in pharma R&D, fewer byproducts are produced, thus minimizing storage and disposal costs. Solvents can also significantly impact costs, as they typically account for 50-80 percent of the mass in a standard batch chemical operation, drive most of the energy consumption and cause the greatest concern with process safety.
For example, Merck and Codexis developed a new synthesis for their diabetes drug, Januvia, where the benefits included, "a 56 percent improvement in productivity with the existing equipment, a 10-13 percent overall increase in yield, and a 19 percent reduction in overall waste generation." In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the work with the Greener Reaction Conditions Award.
Staying ahead of the green chemistry curve
At the heart of every pharma company is the promise to deliver groundbreaking drugs to improve lives across the globe. To achieve this goal in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, pharma companies require access to the latest research in the field. They must innovate beyond traditional synthetic processes.
Starting in the late 1990s, and coinciding with publication of the groundbreaking book by Anastas and Warner, there has been a dramatic increase in research related to the use of green chemistry in the design and synthesis of pharmaceutical agents. Today, the scientific literature includes more than 2.1 million journal articles related to the field.
As with many emerging fields, the use of inconsistent terminology in the scientific literature presents a challenge to those looking to leverage the latest findings. Pharma companies need information solutions that enable their researchers to easily locate greener reactions, reagents, solvents and catalysts as they optimize their syntheses for sustainability.
At CAS, our scientists index green chemistry-related information as they curate the world's largest collection of chemistry insights. This intellectual indexing allows pharma researchers to quickly track down the green chemistry information they need, including more than 45 thousand "green" chemical reactions from the unparalleled CAS reaction collection. With information solutions like SciFindern, researchers can explore the green chemistry research landscape, fine tune their reaction pathways, source the most cost-effective materials and much more.
With over 110 years of experience, no one knows more about working with scientific information than CAS. We have the unique content collection, unmatched subject matter expertise and specialized technology needed to solve big scientific information challenges. Does your company have the information resources it needs to go green? Learn how CAS can help.
CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, partners with R&D organizations globally to provide actionable scientific insights that help them plan, innovate, protect their innovations, and predict how new markets and opportunities will evolve. Leverage our unparalleled content, specialized technology, and unmatched human expertise to customize solutions that will give your organization an information advantage.