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ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable Gets the Conversation Going on Green Chemistry Adoption in Med Chem

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At this year’s Spring ACS National Meeting in Dallas, TX, Callie Bryan, PhD, a medicinal chemist at Genentech Inc. and ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable participant, organized a “Greening the Medicinal Chemistry Toolbox: Lunch and Learn” through the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry. The goal of the event was to inject some momentum into the conversation on how to implement green chemistry in industrial and academic research. This forum allowed for just that. leading to discussions on best practices and challenges that are relevant to both industry professionals and students/professors.

Bryan recruited speakers through the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Professor Neil Garg of UCLA kicked off the event by speaking about his research on the development of greener nickel-catalyzed cross-couplings, which was funded through a Roundtable grant. This was followed by brief presentations from Roundtable company members and ACS GCI Director, Dr. David Constable, on specific topics that pertain to medicinal chemistry. Dr. Helen Sneddon of GlaxoSmithKline discussed green reagent guidance in companies, and how to encourage culture change through guides and databases. Daniel Richter of Pfizer presented on the adoption of greener solvents and solvent reduction in medicinal chemistry practices. Dr. Stefan Koenig of Genentech gave an overview of basic green chemistry research in pharmaceuticals development. Constable rounded out the talks with a summary of greener chromatography approaches.

Pharma Lunch & Learn.jpg(L to R) Neil Garg, David Constable, Dan Richter, Helen Sneddon, and Stefan Koenig at the Lunch & Learn.

The presentations were followed by an hour of question and answer with the audience of industry and academic chemists. The take-aways were numerous—the main one being that everyone has challenges, but there are low-lying fruit and approaches that can help scientists. According to Bryan the low-lying fruit can be something like switching commonly used solvents—for example a common greener choice is THF to 2-MeTHF (which can be bio-derived). What’s currently more difficult is switching away from solvents like DCM (a high toxicity solvent often used in chromotagraphy) and techniques like silica gel chromatography (which requires large amounts of gel, solvents, and glass use). Another huge challenge is trying to move away from critical elements like platinum and ruthenium (both used in common catalysts), which are increasingly expensive as supply shortens.

There were many graduate students in attendance, wondering how to green their research, and industry professionals inquiring how to gain traction for green initiatives. “If we can provide bite-size guidance, scientists will have a much easier time employing and getting buy-in for greener practices. For industry professionals, encouraging upper management engagement will be key,” Bryan explained. The guidance Bryan mentions was heavily discussed at the symposium. One important factor will be approaches for collecting and distributing successful practices and tools that can lay the groundwork for others. More specifically, Richter and Sneddon described their solvent systems at their respective companies, in addition to the Roundtable’s Solvent Selection Guide. Tools like these are important frameworks for chemists to access and use to improve the safety and efficiency of their reactions. Resources like an upcoming sustainable chromatography manuscript and opportunities like the recent (and currently open) Greener Amide Reductions $50K Grant are other ways the Roundtable is informing and encouraging green engagement.

“The feedback from the event was very positive! There were many inquiries for solvent guides and a lot of research-specific information dissemination,” Bryan said.

To learn more about the topics discussed in the lunch and learn, and if you have any questions, email The upcoming ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in greater Washington, DC area and sustainability-themed 248th ACS National Meeting in San Francisco will be important venues for scientists to convene, continue the discussion, and create new directions for research and implementation. Follow the links to register today!

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