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Green Chemistry at SERMACS in Puerto Rico

Contributor III
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GCI Staff Christiana Briddell and Isamir MartinezGCI Staff Christiana Briddell and Isamir Martinez



The ACS Southeastern Regional Meeting (SERMACS) was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 18-22. The program had a strong component of sustainability with a series of six sessions organized and presided by H.N. Cheng, ACS Past President and Juan Colberg, Pfizer. ACS Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) staff, Christiana Briddell and Isamir Martinez, were on site to engage the energized participants from all over the southeast U.S. and Puerto Rico. GCI staff and members of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (GCIPR) presented a technical symposium and a workshop to give SERMACS attendees a deeper understanding of how green chemistry is used in pharmaceutical applications and lessons they can bring back into their own research contexts.

Two back-to-back workshops, “Green Chemistry in Pharma” and “Practical Tools and Techniques for Research & Development Scientists” provided a full-day that covered the fundamentals of green chemistry and engineering; tools that the pharma industry routinely uses to optimize their synthetic chemical processes; how to use these tools to make “greener” decisions in synthetic drug design and process development; and real-world applications from experienced pharma industry process development chemists   A similar workshop is often presented at National Meetings, so please look to attend it in the future.

In the technical program, the ACS GCIPR put together a symposium that demonstrated how the Roundtable advances green chemistry & engineering in a wide variety of areas within the industry.

Speakers included industry members and professors who are working in key research interest areas.

Prof. Jeff Byers of Boston College started off the symposium with a discussion on iron-based catalysts for Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling reactions.

Dr. Michael Kopach, Lilly, provided an overview of the challenge of developing more sustainable approaches to peptide synthesis. Peptide-based drugs are a growing segment in the industry with a Process Mass Intensity (PMI) of many times larger than the average small molecule, which is why Mike has been leading a team focused on this issue in the Roundtable.

Dr. Isamir Martinez, ACS GCI, described tools and metrics the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has developed to benchmark process, select solvents and reagents, compare different analytical methods, examine PMI and more. All these tools are publicly available on the Roundtable website and used by scientists and engineers on daily basis.

Dr. Paul Richardson, Pfizer, discussed enabling technologies, including flow, in accelerating oncology projects sustainably. Dr. David Entwistle, Codexis, discussed the utilization of engineered enzymes in pharma to deliver more efficient processes.  The use of these biocatalysts  have enabled the development of asymmetric chiral coupling reactions and other catalytic reactions that far exceed the capabilities of transition metal catalysts.

Dr. Juan Colberg, Pfizer, discussed continuous processing to decrease cycle time, increase agility and sustainability of APIs. Jenna Stewart, East Tennessee State University, presented about an aqueous copper-free method for oxidative phosphorylation of glyphosate.

Finally, Jared Piper, Pfizer, discussed the fascinating story of development and scaling up the COVID drug Paxlovid in 18 months, and the team’s successes in delivering an efficient but also and green process.

Session Presenters: David Entwistle, Juan Colberg, Isamir Martinez, Jared Piper, Jeffrey Byers, Michael Kopach, H.N. Cheng, and Paul RichardsonSession Presenters: David Entwistle, Juan Colberg, Isamir Martinez, Jared Piper, Jeffrey Byers, Michael Kopach, H.N. Cheng, and Paul Richardson