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The ‘Green’ Chemistry Challenge

By Dorothy Lozowski |

The Green Chemistry Challenge Awards recognize scientific solutions to environmental problems that reduce hazards associated with the design, manufacture and use of chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society (ACS) and other members of the chemical community. This year, a new award category for climate change was added to recognize technologies that reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. A brief summary of the 2022 winners follows [1]:

Greener Synthetic Pathways — Merck & Co., Inc. (www.merck.com) has once again received this award for its achievement in creating a “greener” process. Merck developed a process for manufacturing molnupiravir (tradename LAGEVRIO), an antiviral medication for treating COVID-19, with less organic solvent waste and less energy use. Breakthroughs in the process development include a dynamic crystallization with product selectively crystallizing as it is formed; direct isolation by changing the solvents used, which decreased byproduct formation and increased purity; and utilization of a novel multi-enzyme cascade to increase the efficiency of the process.

Greener Reaction Conditions — Amgen (www.amgen.com) was awarded this honor for an improved manufacturing process for sotorasib (tradename LUMAKRAS), which is a drug for treating certain non-small-cell lung cancers. Amgen decreased the number of reaction steps in the commercial manufacturing process by using telescoped synthesis. This involves creating sequential reactions in one vessel by adding reagents one at a time, thereby eliminating intermediate separation and purification steps. Additional changes, including a recycling step, were also implemented to achieve a more sustainable process.

Small Business — Provivi (www.provivi.com) was recognized for its green solution for crop protection against pests. Provivi’s product, tradenamed ProviviFAW, is a pheromone produced from renewable plant oils. It targets the fall armyworm moth that is destructive to corn and other crops. The company improved the reaction to make this type of pheromone by using fermentation to produce raw materials from plants instead of petroleum. In addition to creating a more sustainable synthesis route, use of the pheromone in place of traditional pesticides offers ecological benefits.

Academic — Professor Song Lin of Cornell University’s Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (www.cornell.edu) received this award for developing a new route to manufacture complicated molecules that are typically needed in pharmaceuticals. The technology employs an electrochemical approach that uses inexpensive carbon or magnesium electrodes and eliminates the need for transition metal catalysts.

Specific Environmental Benefit, Climate Change — Professor Mark Mascal at the University of California at Davis (www.ucdavis.edu) in partnership with Origin Materials (www.originmaterials.com) was recognized for developing a process using acidic digestion of biomass to make 5-(chloromethyl)furfural (CMF). CMF is a bio-based platform chemical that can be used to replace petroleum-based feedstocks to manufacture a variety of chemicals. Origin Materials has developed a process for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from CMF.■ Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director

Dorothy Lozowski


1. Source: EPA; more details about the winners and the awards can be found on the EPA’s website, www.epa.gov

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