With Grant, Scientist Hopes To Help Create ‘Green’ Drugs
There are an increasing number of “green” products available — from hybrid cars to organic food to sustainable buildings. The development of “green” drugs, however, is one area that has lagged behind in the move toward greater environmental sustainability.
Robert Crabtree is looking forward to changing that. The Yale professor of chemistry has received a grant awarded by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly chemical compounds that are found in a wide array of drugs used by millions of people worldwide.
“The pharmaceutical industry has historically been rather un-green,” Crabtree says. “This is an effort on their part to get the academic community to dream up some solutions.”
The grant, which is awarded “for research aimed at creating greener pathways to drug production that result in improved environmental benefits,” will boost Crabtree’s funding by $160,000 over the next two years. Of the 48 proposals under consideration this year, Crabtree’s was the only one that received funding.
“I was very pleased to find out I got it,” he says, adding that the money will fund interesting research projects for a number of his graduate students as well - a much needed boost in today’s economic climate, he notes. “It was perfect timing.”
Crabtree’s research focuses on identifying catalysts — agents that speed up reactions in pharmaceutical drugs — derived from iron, copper, cobalt and other metals that are less expensive and more environmentally benign. Typically, these catalysts are created using potentially toxic substances such as platinum, iridium and chloride, which can make their way into the environment and have a damaging effect.
“The Roundtable companies are very proud to be supporting the research of Professor Robert Crabtree,” said Roundtable co-chairs Andrew Wells, senior principal scientist at AstraZeneca Global Process R&D, and Peter Dunn, Pfizer green chemistry program leader, in a joint statement. “This research project promises to extend and improve the methodology that is available to the chemistry community.”
After joining the ACS in 2001, the Green Chemistry Institute created the Pharmaceutical Roundtable, a partnership between ACS and an alliance of major pharmaceutical companies. Its mission is to integrate green chemistry and engineering into drug discovery and production.
Crabtree is happy to see the pharmaceutical industry jumping on the green bandwagon. “Designing green in from the start, rather than cleaning things up after the fact, is a better way to do things,” he says.