Towards more sustainability in drug manufacture
Today, drug manufacture often requires 100 kg of materials to produce just 1 kg of active ingredient. This inefficiency means that many products require long lead times and large facilities for their production and to deal with any waste materials. This is not just bad for the environment; medicines produced in this way are expensive to develop and produce.
Meanwhile, another emerging issue for the pharmaceutical sector is the scarcity of precious metals, like platinum, that are essential in the synthesis of many drugs but are being depleted at alarming rates.
Solving these problems will require a major revision in the way drugs are synthesised.
CHEM21 will link leading academics in the field of green chemistry with scientists working in drug synthesis in industry to tackle the challenges found in the commercial manufacture of drugs.
Specifically, the CHEM21 project aims to generate a range of technologies for medicines manufacture that are demonstrably more sustainable that existing methods. Part of the project will be devoted to designing catalysts based on common metals (such as copper, iron and nickel) instead of the rarer and more expensive precious metals used now. The team also aims to reduce the amount of solvent used and develop methods that favour starting materials that result in less harmful waste. An additional aim of the team is to provide new tools for medicinal chemists which are greener and are robust for scaling up.
Elsewhere, the project plans to boost the use of enzymes as catalysts and to investigate what steps are needed to implement synthetic biology for the sustainable production of more complex molecules.
In addition to promoting green and sustainable methodologies among current medicinal and process chemists, CHEM21 wants to make ‘green’ drug production second nature for the next generation of scientists in this area. To this end, the project will develop and disseminate educational material, case studies, and reviews and trial them in selected universities and EFPIA companies.
Cheaper medicines for patients
Inefficient production processes and the use of rare precious metals raise the costs of drug production. By making drug production more efficient and swapping expensive materials for cheaper alternatives, CHEM 21 will help to lower the cost of medicines.