Across the world, more and more chemical companies are beginning to transform their processes and products to be more efficient, less toxic, and less dependent on depleting, non-renewable resources. This move to greener chemistry is often a triple win as these sustainable actions track with financial improvements, reduce environmental impact, and remove or lessen safety concerns associated with traditional technologies. To meet this need and to get out in front of this rapidly growing trend, companies are creating programs completely dedicated to green chemistry. These programs not only promote greener practices and technologies, they create usable resources for others in their company to learn more about this newer approach to chemistry, raise awareness and visibility, and collect metrics and recommend targets for research and development. While the structure of these groups vary across firms, one thing is clear: these groups are critical for departments across a firm to begin cohesively and successfully developing greener technologies and adopting more sustainable practices.
In order to inform and further accelerate this movement, on April 25th the International Consortium for Innovation & Quality in Pharmaceutical Development (IQ Consortium) hosted an online webinar titled “Seven Important Elements for an Effective Green Chemistry Program.” The presentation was based off of a 2013 Organic Process Research & Development article with the same title. The three presenters (David Leahy of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Ingrid Mergelsberg of Merck, and John Tucker of Amgen) participate in the consortium in addition to being American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable (ACS GCIPR) member representatives.
“Transforming pharmaceutical science by advancing standards and ‘best practices’ is at the core of IQ’s mission; the rapid evolution of Green Chemistry in pharmaceutical manufacture exemplifies transformative change arising from collaboration amongst pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders,” said Lew Kinter, Chair of the IQ Consortium.
This paper and webinar resulted from a survey of IQ Consortium members on what is needed to have an effective green chemistry program. Twelve pharmaceutical companies provided feedback, and six companies contributed to the paper and webinar. The group then distilled the elements from the results that were the most impactful into the easy-to-read 7 steps below:
1. Empowered green chemistry teams with management support
2. Metrics and targets
3. Resources and tools
5. Awareness and recognition
6. Investment in green technology
7. External collaboration
In the webinar Leahy, a process chemist at BMS and co-chair of the ACS GCIPR , discussed some of the initial needs for building a program from the ground-up. Since green chemistry requires chemists and engineers to reimagine science that has been done for decades, these teams can catalyze that necessary culture change. These multidisciplinary, grassroots initiatives need highly motivated champions and the full-time support of the management; they will vary from group to group (by site, structure, function), it is just important for participants to feel empowered. It was emphasized that in order to measure progress a team needs simple, easily defined, and measurable metrics—this allows the team to identify baseline performance and set targets for future improvements.
Mergelsberg, the director of process chemistry at Merck, dove into the importance of providing certain resources and tools that offer guidance to accomplish the goal of greener process design. Many metric calculators and guides are already a component of most chemists’ work flow, so they are a great way to incorporate green chemistry awareness into every day work. The ACSGCIPR solvent guide and process mass intensity calculators were mentioned as examples; each provide essential information and assessment structure for improving reaction and material efficiency, reducing toxicity, etc. On top of improving access and awareness for these items, it is crucial for teams to ramp up internal education efforts. Whether its symposia, newsletters, or trainings for employees, educational opportunities will ensure the desired culture change.
Rounding out the session, Tucker, a process chemist at Amgen, touched upon specific approaches for improving awareness such as internal lectures, centralized tools on sharepoint, or external publication. He then elaborated on the need for recognition of the impassioned green scientists, as it will reinforce positive and productive growth for the program. Public and private acknowledgement from management, as well as participation in internal and external award programs (for example, the U.S. EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards) can boost the energy of participants. Finally, remembering that investing in enabling technologies and to collaborate with outside groups (ACS GCI Roundtables, IQ Consortium, Innovative Medicines Initiative: Chem 21, National Science Foundation, etc.) will provide teams the opportunities to have a larger impact on their firms’ activities.
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