At the moment, the pharmaceutical industry is preoccupied with financial concerns, mainly because of patent expirations, weak pipelines, and our limping economy. But before the current crisis, many companies were devoting greater attention to minimizing the harmful environmental effects of their processes. What if there were a way to address these two concerns at once?
Green chemistry might be just the ticket, as a Canadian researcher recently showed. Philip Jessop, Canada research chair in green chemistry at Queen’s University in Ontario, won the John C. Polanyi Award for his work with switchable solvents. Jessop created a solvent whose polarity can be modified in the presence of a trigger such as carbon dioxide. Scientists can use the switchable solvent to unite and separate otherwise immiscible elements such as oil and water. The solvent could be used in extraction–filtration–precipitation processes.
Jessop’s process is environmentally friendly because it relies on nontoxic substances, and the solvent can be used in several reaction and separation steps. The solvent’s reusability is not only beneficial for the environment, it simplifies the separation process and reduces the costs associated with it.
The latest Polanyi Award reminds us that the pharmaceutical industry’s economic and environmental responsibilities need not conflict. Jessop’s work shows a way for drugmakers to unite two shades of green.