Interview: Green Chemistry
“Green Chemistry – Key Driver of Sustainability in the Pharmaceutical Industry”
PROCESS: Green Chemistry is a major determining factor in the process research and development arena in the pharma sector. How can the best be leveraged by deploying the same for driving cost-effectiveness and reducing waste?
Dr. BANDICHHOR: Green Chemistry is the best possible way of practising chemistry without compromising on environmental factors. It ensures least Process Mass Intensity (PMI) or zero E-factor in the most atom-efficient and energyefficient manner. Least PMI means maximum output at the expense of minimum input, which results in lowering of costs. This also allows to sync chemistry with engineering, thus ensuring speedy development of best quality products at the lowest cost.
Last but not the least, this also helps to develop robust, scalable and safe processes. High costs incurred at every stage act as an area of concern in the production of pharmaceuticals. In order to reduce cost, en route, it would be feasible to safeguard the environment and become more sustainable as atom efficiency is increased and E-factor is minimized. Green philosophy fundamentally helps in developing affordable medicines for leading a healthy life.
PROCESS: From the pharmaceutical business perspective, what challenges does the industry face in terms of practising Green Chemistry?
Dr. BANDICHHOR: Poor understanding of the distinctive advantages offered by Green Chemistry and Engineering acts as a deterrent in terms of practising greener alternatives in the pharmaceutical sector. Green Chemistry is not expensive, rather it is common sense based science. Even if companies realize this, it is a challenging task for them to find a profitable substitute as it requires high level of scientific domain knowledge to bring the solution on board. Green Chemistry and Engineering is believed to bring tangible benefits and aid capability-building; still it takes a backseat.
I believe it is probably due to inadequate promotion by the chemistry fraternity and poor recognition given to Green Chemistry and Engineering R&D efforts. Since this science has the potential to add high value to products, it is important to incentivize scientists, otherwise it would be difficult to keep the momentum going. Often, Green Chemistry and Engineering strategies require investment at a scale which does not happen on time. This leads to poor business reflection from return on investment (ROI) standpoint.
Moreover, first-in-market strategy calls for speedy product development, on-time delivery of solutions, protection of intellectual property rights etc. Striking balance between these requirements and Green Chemistry-based solutions imposes tough impediments. There is also the challenge related to supply chain partners, who should be cost driven to support businesses of big companies. They may do business due to fewer overheads, but their growth will suffer if they lack understanding and infrastructure to produce greener products or intermediates.