Computer aided solvent design to minimise solvent use in integrated synthesis, purification & isolation for sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering


It may be surprising to learn, but the pharmaceutical industry is around 1000 times worse than oil refining in terms of waste generated per kg of product; the industry produces around 100kg of hazardous waste per kg of product, most of which is solvent. The proposed "SolvIT" bid will build on existing collaborations between Strathclyde and Imperial College in the area of modelling and solvent design, whilst strengthening the team with new collaborative partners, to tackle this colossal amount of waste. Our vision is to improve efficiency and reduce waste in the manufacture of new and existing medicines, lowering their cost, and making their production more sustainable and environmentally friendly. We plan to do this through three main programmes of work:
1. The identification and deployment of sustainable solvents in medicines manufacture: most medicines require multiple operations (steps) to go from bulk raw material to final active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). At each step, a different solvent is often required. These solvents may be toxic and costly to dispose of, isolation of products at each step, also incurring solvent use, adds to the cost. SolvIT will use a combination of computer modelling and experiment to evaluate alternative solvents, which are more sustainable, in the most popular chemical reactions used in the synthesis of new medicines, so that new and existing process can use these new solvents, reducing waste and cost.
2. Integrated solvent and process design: building on the outputs from the first objective, we will again combine computational modelling approaches with process design, driven by a range of key metrics, to allow multiple steps in the medicine production to be combined, or "telescoped", minimising the waste that is generated, and reducing time to production, resulting in overall cost savings from both of these improvements.
3. Stakeholder engagement: we will engage with pharmaceutical company partners, and industry regulators, to better understand from them the current barriers to solvent recycling and communicate to them new developments emerging from this work which may help to overcome these barriers.
The integration of these strands of research, along with the collaborative expertise from the two partner institutions, across disciplines of synthetic chemistry, computational chemistry, and chemical engineering, will deliver findings that will be of benefit across pharmaceutical industry in particular, and the chemicals manufacturing space in general.


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