Green Chemistry – Solvent selection guide

I attended the last day of the 15th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference today in Washington DC, courtesy of the Center for Green Chemistry & Engineering at Yale. Now I am totally new to this green chemistry idea but I picked the “greener pharmaceutical processes and products session II” in the hope of learning something that I could understand close enough to pharma related topics that I know.

Well I learnt a few things.

1. Dr. I. Mergelsberg (Merck) indicated that solvents used in discovery chemistry will influence those used in development of final API. So if the discovery Med Chemists use a not so green solvent to make their compound its likely the same will happen with the API if it becomes a drug for clinical trials etc…but (and here is the good news for everyone) if by chance they pick a “greener” solvent this will likely also happen in development..hmm so I paraphrase a lot. This means early decision making by medicinal chemists(read common sense) can have massive implications later because I also learnt that green chemistry is also cheaper too.

2. Then the sledge hammer hit me…I learnt a consortia organized by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute with 13 or so pharmaceutical partners had come up with a “greeness” ranking (for want of a better word) of solvents (or replacement guide) for use by medicinal chemists in synthesis which resulted in a PDF that is hidden away on a website (that you need to register for). Now if you really, really, really wanted to impact everyone and here I mean med chemists (with huge effect for environment etc) would you put all this time and effort into a PDF that was / is so well hidden on the ACS website? So you are saying this is not novel etc as every company has their own list..great, but these 13 or so companies actually came to some agreement – this is a great example of a precompetitive initiative. Why on earth was this not trumpeted more loudly. Great idea, great collaboration, great result, poor communication. The Merck experience included integrating solvent selection into e-lab notebooks but my guess is that is not an overnight process. What do most people have that is small and they use frequently to communicate with..not an e-lab notebook. Recommendation get the table out there by all means necessary, slideshare, facebook, press release whatever..but please not just a pdf on a website.

3. Next I realized all these “western” pharmas are coming up with a list for solvent selection, but you may remember well nearly all pharma med chem synthesis is outsourced to those CRO companies in China, India, Russia etc..so who are they really going to influence. None of these companies were part of the ACS consortia / roundtable. Well it was mentioned that pharmas basically tell these companies what to make. The reality is that may happen today but not in the future. If anything, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute needs to be in these countries in which the compounds are made. Or at the very least they should translate the PDF into many languages. Big opportunity here. Missed.

I think there was some reason for me to be at this meeting – basically to say the problem as I see it with green chemistry is it is a great idea in principle but  does not communicate it’s message or its successes well. The solution may be to hire a good PR company and do it quick before the 16th meeting.


4 pings

  1. Barry Bunin says:

    The problem is that synthesis (especially process chemistry) is hard to optimize. Even with a variety of solvent and reagent choices. So although it would be nice to do all reactions in H2O, often in the race to discover a new drug, a medicinal chemist may not have the time to explore optimizing green solvents given the need to find a compound with XYZ properties by PDQ time.

  2. sean says:

    And thats exactly why the solvent selection guide needs to be delivered in a way that med chemists will see it, act on it and choose greener solvents.

  3. Alex Clark says:

    There’s an app for that 🙂


  4. Jennifer says:

    I notice GSK have published their own guide in the April issue of Green Chemistry ( http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/GC/C0gc00918k ).

    What’s great is that both versions of their guide are FREE as pdf’s under Supplementary Info.

    (Sean, the Med Chem one especially really looks designed to be actually being used).

  5. sean says:

    Many thanks Jennifer – please see the next blog in this series too that follows on from here http://www.collabchem.com/2011/07/02/green-chemistry-solvent-selection-guide-ii/

  6. David says:

    Greener solvents are better used than conventional ones. They are more sustainable and kind of eco-friendly.
    Ask David

  7. Sean Ekins says:

    Also see article in ACS Nexus newsletter http://portal.acs.org/portal/fileFetch/C/CNBP_027943/pdf/CNBP_027943.pdf

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