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Green Chemistry Workshop for Drug Development and Education

Honored Contributor
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Contributed by Ray Borg, Chair of the UMass Sustainable Scientists Association and Outreach Coordinator of the NSYCC

On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Sustainable Scientists Association, and the Northeast Section Younger Chemist Committee hosted a workshop focused on green chemistry in the pharmaceutical industry and chemical education at the Integrated Science Center at UMass Boston.  In addition to the large number of graduate students in attendance, several high school teachers and students from Urban Science Academy were also present.

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The first half of the event was comprised of four talks from research chemists at Pfizer who implement green chemistry principles into their daily lives. Javier Magano gave the first presentation on how Pfizer has incorporated green chemistry over the last 14 years. Dr. John Wong followed with a presentation on how pharmaceutical compounds synthesized using biocatalysts can be more a sustainable alternative to traditional catalysis.  Next, Dr. Leo Letendre presented about his work with greening the industrial production of Celebrex®. Finally, Magano concluded the Pfizer presentations with a talk on the applications of transition metal catalysis in the pharmaceutical industry.

Attendees then proceeded to a working lunch hosted by Dr. Shen Duan where we broke into four different groups to analyze the varied synthetic routes of Pregabalin. After the discussion, each group presented what could be improved about each synthetic pathway in order to reduce energy and toxic materials, as well as to increase the yield of the desired compound.

Dr. John Warner, CEO of Warner Babcock and Co-Founder of Beyond Benign, opened up the green chemistry in education part of the workshop by presenting on his experiences through academia, industry and entrepreneurship. His life story as a chemist is fascinating and inspiring. He continues to innovate and implement green chemistry in all facets of his company and provides hope for the future.

Next, John de la Parra, a graduate student and instructor from Northeastern University, gave a talk on the green chemistry units that he and his colleagues, Vaso Lykourino and Alejandro Rovira, have been implementing in undergraduate curricula at Northeastern. Dr. Hannah Sevian from UMass Boston concluded with a presentation on the development of student thinking from middle to graduate school. Over her years of collecting surveys and data from students, she demonstrated examples of how chemistry is presented at these educational levels along with different ways to increase student engagement and understanding of the material.

The large, diverse and engaged crowd, as well as Pfizer’s generous contribution, made this event a great success! We hope to continue this collaboration and host more green chemistry events in the future.

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