Green Chemistry lecture at KI

Idag skulle jag ha hållit en föreläsning om hållbar kemikaliehantering och grön kemi på Karolinska Institutet (KI) för biomedicinstudenter. Tyvärr blev det strömavbrott precis då jag skulle börja min föreläsning. För att ge studenterna en chans att läsa in detta avsnitt ger jag nedan en sammanfattning, på engelska, av vad som skulle ha varit dagens föreläsning.

Below follows a brief summary of the lecture that I was intended to give at KI today. Due to a power breakdown we had to cancel the lecture, but this summary should alllow the students to grasp some fundamental ideas around green chemistry and the environmental challenges for the pharmaceutical

The tittle of the lecture is Sustainable Use of Chemicals for the Common Good. The lecture includes some general background to Green Chemistry, with examples from the pharmaceutical industry.

Green Chemistry KI - Pharmaceuticals and the Environment

Pharmaceuticals do magic inside the body of patients, but should not show up in our drinking water. There is a potential risk to human health if the concentration of biologically active substances, like pharmaceutical substances (APIs, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), increases in drinking water. We also need to protect drinking water reservoirs and other water bodies to secure not only human health but also ecological status. Waste water from manufacturing operations and from patient excretion go through waste water treatment plants (WWTP), but since those treatment plants were not designed originally to degrade chemical substances, several APIs survive the WWTP. In addition to API residues potentially ending up in the environment, other environmental impacts from manufacturing operations include emissions to air, and waste generation.

What can be done in the R&D and manufacuring phases to produce ”green pharmaceuticals”?

Green Chemistry KI - Green design and green manufacturing

There are two aspects of Green Chemistry. ”Green Design” means that we make the molecules ”non-toxic”, ”not bio-accumulative”, and ”easily degradable”. Unfortunately this presents a huge challenge to our scientists. It is for instance a tough criteria to make the API easily degradable, still securing that it survives long enough in the body to give the positive medical effect. The other aspect of Green Chemistry is ”Green Processes” (or Green Manufacturing). Most of the examples given in the remaining part of the lecture are from the Green Processes/Manufacturing arena.

Green Chemistry KI - Chem21

A great source of knowledge on Green Manufacturing is the IMI project (Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public-private partnership between European Commission and EFPIA (the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe)) called Chem21.

Green Chemistry - Solvents

One of the important environmental aspects to address in Green Chemsitry is the use of solvents. Not only the amounts used in a process, but also what type of solvents to use. The solvent selection guide is a useful tool for our scientists.

Green Chemistry KI - Solvent selection guide

In addition to solvents, our scientists also have to chose the right reagent to use. It will always be a balance between ”wide utility”, ”scalability”, and ”greenness”.

Green Chemistry KI - Reagent selection

In Chem21, biocatalysts are also addressed. A very interesting field where we still have a lot to learn from the way ”Mother Nature” does chemical syntheses.

Green Chemistry KI - Biocatalysts

In addition to these different perspectives on Green Chemistry, and with several examples from our industry that I have not shared with you here at the ”blog version”, I also intended to conclude the lecture today with discussion on what can be done instead of (or in many cases perhaps in addition to) manufacturing, distribution, and prescription of a pharmaceutical to improve public health.

Green Chemistry KI - lowest env impact

If you have followed my blog over the years you know that I strongly advocate for preventive initiatives and health promotion activities. We as an industry, in close collaboration with all other stakeholders in the healthcare sector, need to do more to ”helping people from getting sick” as Pfizer’s ex-CEO and ex-Chairman said back in 2010.

It is a pity that I couldn’t have the discussion with the students today, due to that power break-down, but I hope that this blog post helps them to grasp some of what was supposed to be my key messages :-)


One comment on “Green Chemistry lecture at KI

  1. Ioana Chelcea skriver:

    Thank you very much! This was very useful and informative. It’s really a pity we couldn’t have the lecture.


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