INNOVATIVE processes including improving the yield of an antiviral drug candidate, and turning waste containing rare earth elements into potential revenue streams, are among the winners of this year’s US Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recognise chemical technologies that incorporate green chemistry principles into chemical design, manufacture, and use.
Each year, winners are picked in categories that acknowledge greener synthetic pathways, chemical design, reaction conditions, a small business and an academic researcher.
Among this year’s winners was US pharma giant Merck, which won the Greener Synthetic Pathways category for improving the way its antiviral drug candidate, Letermovir, is made. Changes including using a better chemical catalyst resulted in overall yield increases of more than 60%, a 93% reduction in raw material cost, and 90% less water use.
The Academic award was presented to Eric Schelter from the University of Pennsylvania, for his simple, fast and low-cost technology to help recycle mixtures of rare earth elements such as yttrium and scandium. Schelter’s work may be able to turn a waste stream, currently only recycled at a rate of 1%, into a potential revenue stream. The recycled rare earth oxides could potentially be used in wind turbines, catalysts, and batteries.
Dow Chemical Company, in partnership with Koehler Paper Group, won the Designing Greener Chemicals award. They designed a thermal paper free from chemical dyes and developers such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS). Instead, it uses a physical process involving air pockets in a polymer coating which collapse during printing. The technology can be used with existing printers to produce long-lasting cash register receipts, tickets, tags and labels.
A partnership of Amgen and Bachem received the Greener Reaction Conditions award for an improved peptide manufacturing technology to make the active ingredient, etelcalcetide, in the drug Parsabiv. The drug, a calcium inhibitor, helps to control thyroid gland activity in patients with kidney disease. Their new process reduces chemical solvent use by 71%, manufacturing operating time by 56%, and manufacturing cost by 76%. This could eliminate more than 1,440 m3 of waste annually, including over 750 m3 of aqueous waste.
Finally, the Small Business Award went home with UniEnergy Technologies, for commercialising an advanced vanadium redox flow battery, following development at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The water-based electrolyte battery benefits from a broader temperature range, resistance to degradation, a smaller footprint, and non-flammable qualities.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, said: “These innovations encourage smart and safe practices, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments. Ultimately, these manufacturing processes and products spur economic growth and are safer for health and the environment.”
The awards have been running for 22 years, with 114 winners in total. The EPA estimates that winning technologies are responsible for reducing the use or generation of more than 375m kg/y of hazardous chemicals, saving 95bn L/y of water, and eliminating 3.5 Gt/y of CO2 equivalent emissions.
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