Pfizer Global Engineering and Manufacturing has been working with students and faculty from Rowan University’s chemical engineering department to investigate green approaches to drug manufacturing, according to a July Rowan press release. The partnership is aimed at analyzing and quantifying the economic viability and environmental benefit, respectively, of investing in a small solvent-recovery system. Such a system provides an alternative to incineration for small volumes of waste.
The team tested several waste streams that had been generated at a Pfizer API synthesis plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The researchers examined whether those streams could be easily recovered with traditional separation and purification processes, using a small-scale distillation, solvent-recovery system, according to the release. The results were compared with Pfizer’s current waste-disposal practice. The team also evaluated the economic feasibility of an improved carbon footprint.
Overall, the Rowan team determined that Pfizer could reduce its life-cycle emissions for the three drugs studied [Revolution (selamectin), Viracept (nelfinavir), and toluene, used in hydrocortisone manufacture]. They projected that the CO2 reductions that could be gained would be equivalent to the “amount of emissions saved by not driving cars 1.4 million miles in a year,” according to the release. Pfizer plans to use the data when evaluating its solvent use and disposal practices, according to the release.
In 2008, Rowan students worked with Pfizer to improve the environmental profile of the manufacturing process for Celebrex’s active ingredient, celecoxib. This earlier project was sponsored by Pfizer’s Green Chemistry initiative and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
When the academic community collaborates with the corporate world, it’s clear that many insights can be gained. The National Institutes of Health website includes a list of additional educational initiatives in green chemistry across the United States, although it’s not clear how up to date the list may be.