Greetings from North of Europe!

August 2014 Blog – Leena Otsomaa, Orion Corporation, Orion Pharma

Summer is slowly turning into early autumn here and soon here it is time to pick up fruits and berries from forests and one’s garden. From the four seasons, the autumn is the time of harvesting and so it will be soon also time for us in Chem21 to harvest the results of our project. Today I am confident that our project is proceeding well and we can be pleased of it. In this blog,  I will highlight some reasons for my confidence in this blog from Orion perspective.

For me this project actually started already in the year 2010 when GSK, Sanofi and Orion had the first discussion on the phone for possible topics and the content in the field synthetic chemistry for IMI call 4.

The topics that were discussed at that time are the basis of the current WP’s in the Chem21. During further discussions the program became more matured and new members joined to the planning group. Eventually Call 4 was opened in the mid of 2011. It was already three years ago! It also was the time when academic groups of Chem21 started to form multidisciplinary teams to address the challenges that we in industry had identified. The academic groups used Chem21 name in their applications and finally it turned to be the name of our consortium. It is by the way a good name. Now we are close to the end of the first half of the whole Chem21 project phase, soon turning into harvesting…  and I can proudly say that we have already concrete results in our hands though many things are still in the progress.

As medicinal chemists we have learned that our scientific challenges in research are global. It doesn’t matter Mid or Big: chemistry is chemistry. PR&D and research have their different perspectives, but there also exists synergies.In chemistry future challenges of development are current problems of research. This makes challenges common for all of us. The aspect that consortium has representatives from both research and development of EFPIA partners makes Chem21 stronger. Yet not forgetting that learning from our colleagues in PR&D medicinal chemists can reduce their burden on environment and design better routes for the next phase. Academic groups have important role in developing novel more sustainable methodologies and technologies for the future use.

One of the real opportunities the consortium is delivering to the members – academia as well as companies – is the chance of networking & collaboration in various settings. After the initial -getting to know- phase this is one of the most important ways to boost research successes by utilizing more possibilities also in the future. For us in Orion (midsize pharma company from far north) this has been a great chance to extend our scientific network to Pan European research groups.

Below I have highlighted some thoughts on the four WPs,  we –at Orion- are involved actively.


Was very active during the first year of the project and delivered vision 2020. However, it also verified that the original starting points were valid. I personally wish that vision 2020 will be taken to the wide audience to activate debate between the experts in the field of chemistry and to improve our way of working worldwide.


Today in the middle of the project  the most valuable result in WP2 for us has been research activities in the field of CH activation. There has been debates that CH activation is too hot topic and it is true, if you only focus on academic publications. However, if you review patent applications, you can easily conclude that CH activation is not widely used by medicinal chemists. One reason e.g. in contrast of Suzuki type Pd-based chemistry, simply is that the field of CH activation as technology is not well known in practice. Scientist prefer to utilize technologies and methodologies they are morefamiliar with. WP2 has brought CH activation close to our scientists and new compounds (potential candidates) has been made utilizing methodologies developed under WP2 of Chem21.


I would highlight the technology transfer in the field of biotransformation from Manchester under WP3. We had post doc Susanne Herter here in Orion for four months working with our scientists and setting up the systems. We in Orion learned a lot from utilizing whole cells in organic synthesis as well as many handy tricks with isolated enzymes. She learned about industrial thinking among many other things. Borrowing her words, Scientists in academia asks ‘’what is possible to make with this’’ while in industry scientist asks ‘’does this work in my case’’. I am sure that her visit to Orion has influence on her future scientific work. Our vision in Orion is to have biocatalysis as one alternative tool for our scientists. Chem21 gives us good starting point towards our vision.


We in Orion have initiated as an in-house actions to implement solvent and reagent recommendation which are under development in Chem21, to our scientists daily practice. I have already heard encouraging comments from our scientist how helpful Chem21 guidelines (even if draft) have been in practice. As part of the work performed,  the green chemistry e-book has been written though final editing etc. are still to be done. However, when the e-book becomes available I highly recommend to read it and utilize it for training purposes. The motivation of academic partners on ensuring industry relevant education for next generation scientists, is on great to notice.

WP5 has also initiated the selection of philanthropic target molecules for educational purposes. The real benefit of these targets is that they are used through all WP activities, especially with the aim of industrialization of selected processes. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these activities.

Finally I would point out that scientific challenges are tackled around the word by many scientist,however,how we work together in Chem21 makes the difference. Hence, I courage to pay great attention to collaboration between various partners of consortium.

My sincere thanks to all colleagues from other EFPIA companies and scientists from academic/non-profits/ SME’s for everything.

‘’Keep the bunsen burning’’ as one professor supervising me said when I was still making my post graduate studies (though today use of this old technique is forbidden)!