November Blog – by Murray Brown (Project Coordinator)
I think everyone who was able to attend the second annual meeting of Chem21 in Graz will agree that the breadth and depth of green technologies on show was breathtaking from base metal catalysts for C-H activation to Synthetic Biology chassis for cascade reactions. On a personal note, it was an honour and a privilege to be elected by the GA to take over from Simon Dolan as Coordinator for the consortium and I’d like to recognise his leadership over the first two years to create such a well aligned and productive organisation from such a diverse grouping. I’m really looking forward to working with the whole consortium over the next two years to bring home the tangible benefits that we are all hoping for. There isn’t room here to detail all the excellent science presented, and all the slides and posters are available to members on the e-Room for those that weren’t able to get to the meeting in person. I would like to highlight a few areas, and echo the words from our Scientific Advisory Board (and it was great that Dave Lathbury and John Leonard were able to attend and take such an active role in the meeting). Work packages 1 and 5 have been referred to as topping and tailing the consortium and with them we’ve been working to find the glue that binds us all together. Firstly the work to identify greener routes to Essential Medicines has reached the next stage. We’ve decided to progress the Fluorination work developed at Durham to scale up sponsored by Sanofi at their strategic partner MEPI. The C-H activation chemistry developed at Antwerp will be investigated for a greener route to the anthelminthic drug Albendazole which forms part of GSK’s philanthropic donation portfolio. And perhaps most ambitiously we will seek to find enzymatic routes to Ethambutol, a key component of TB therapy. The next two years is where the rubber really hits the road in terms of proving that sustainable technologies can be industrialised and used at scale for pharmaceutical production. So beyond these key Essential Medicines the EFPIA members have identified focus areas where resources will be concentrated to demonstrate their applicability in industry. Another aspect that ties the workpackages together is the reaction database. The database is now live with the biocatalysis portion nearly complete and although Vilmos, Tony and Peter will continue to make improvements to its functionality all researchers should be entering their data. As well as allowing everyone to see your wonderful work, it provides a simple way to check how green your reactions are and it’s now a requirement to have entered the relevant reactions before publication approval. A further area highlighted by the SAB as unique and of great value is the Young Researcher Network. Work package 5 members did an excellent job in a tightly squeezed agenda to run a workshop that was by all accounts very well received. We hope to be able to hold other such workshops and increasingly will be looking to virtual technologies to try to recreate the energy and immediacy of a face to face meeting without the associated travel. I urge you all to engage fully with the YRN and participate in future events whether in cyberspace or IRL (thanks to my teenage daughters for the acronym).
Finally I look forward to meeting you all again at next year’s AGM which will be hosted by Sanofi in Paris (date to be announced, targeting early Sept) and many of you before that at as many WP F2F meetings as I can manage (again dates to be announced, targeting March/April).