Symposium on Green Processing in the Pharmaceutical & Fine Chemical Industries

Last week, John Tedesco and I had the privilege to attend the 3rd International Symposium on Green Processing in the Pharmaceutical & Fine Chemical Industries in Boston, MA.Green Processing in Pharmaceutical and Fine Chemical Industries After having attended the 2nd Symposium at Yale in 2008, I was pleased to see that the high scientific standards that impressed me before were again met this year. Although the topic of green chemistry may sound narrow, the variety and breadth of topics covered at the event were astounding. The two day Symposium on Green Processing was divided into four sessions.

The first half day was dedicated to Biocatalysis, development hurdles of Biocatalysis, and its immense value for building valuable small and large molecules which applications range from materials, to fuels, and biologically active molecules. The Biocatalysis session featured talks from academia as well as industry, including Lonza, Pfizer, and Codexis, who discussed manufacturing scale implementation examples.  The Biocatalysis presentations reinforced my conviction that the development and commercialization of large molecules (antibodies, proteins, lipid and cellulosic biomaterials) is key in addressing world’s present and future challenges – as compared to small molecules.

The second part of the Symposium focused on Innovative and Green Chemical Technologies, including presentations from Michael Kopach from Eli Lilly about the greening of a Grignard process using a Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR) approach and Pfizer’s impressive statistics on the time it takes to get regulatory approval to implement green process improvements in the manufacturing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs).  The message I retained from the Innovative and Green Chemical Technologies session was that it is only a matter of weeks with the FDA and should by no means be considered as too big of a hurdle that justifies a status quo.

A third section gave instrument and software companies the opportunity to explain how their technologies help develop more productive, sustainable chemical products and processes. John C. Warner introduced the session with a keynote address detailing his vision of what green chemistry is and what it is not. I was especially interested in John Warner’s description of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry that he recently founded in the Boston area.  For those with a passion for innovative and sustainable chemical products and technologies (myself included), the Warner Babcock Institute adventure will be fascinating to follow. We then heard about topics as diverse as micro-reactors for pharmaceutical development, model predictive control application in bio-manufacturing, and new chromatography techniques to reduce solvent consumption.

I had the opportunity to expose my perspective on Process Analytical Technology (PAT) to maximize energy and material efficiency in chemical development and manufacturing. I had selected recent publications showing the use of ReactIR at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), RC1 at Pfizer, and FBRM at Sepracor to enhance the efficiency of continuous processing and the safety of batch processing as well as improve crystallization conditions to prevent waste associated with batch reprocessing when the quality of the final product is not met.  I believe the most promising developments in the instrumentation business are in the miniaturization of existing technologies (e.g. micro flow cell today) and the ability to run real time scientific and statistical data analysis (model predictive control, kinetic analysis, etc.).

The last session took us through the difficult challenges of developing and commercializing drug for neglected diseases as well as affordable drugs to the developing world. We heard fascinating accounts filled with poignant anecdotes from Michael P. Pollastri (Northeastern University), David H. Brown Ripin (Clinton Foundation), and Joseph M. Fortunak (Howard University). I was struck by how much a few scientists filled with passion and a strong sense of accomplishment have been able to achieve. For instance, their creativity and hard work have made anti-HIV Tenofovir and Efavirenz affordable to a large majority of countries.

Inspirational as well was the keynote address by Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Research & Development, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during the memorable reception at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.  It is with no doubt the most impressive setting for a reception I have ever been given the opportunity to attend.

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