Green Chemistry

From Theory to Practice: Our Ongoing Commitment to Green Chemistry

  • ‘Green-by-design’ approach to two early phase pipeline projects may result in up to 70% waste reduction
  • Employee-led Community of Practice develops roadmap to help us better implement the principles of green chemistry both inside and outside the lab

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate,” begins the slogan of the new green chemistry branch of ourIMPACT, an employee-lead group focused on furthering environmental sustainability initiatives at Biogen. 

Chemical humor aside, in recent years we’ve shown that green chemistry can improve our processes, reduce costs and lower resource needs, resulting in positive environmental benefits. Green chemistry underscores our mission in the Pharma Development organization to develop therapeutic products designed for both patients and the environment. 

Most recently, we’ve adopted a ‘green-by-design’ approach for two of our early phase pipeline projects. By focusing on ways to reduce the material needed to produce the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for two investigational therapies, one to potentially treat multiple sclerosis and one to potentially treat neuropathic pain, we were able to lower the process mass intensity (PMI) measure for both by upwards of 70 percent. PMI measures how environmentally sustainable a process is. 

By reducing the amount of solvent (both organic and water), reagents and catalysts used, we were able to eliminate some process steps and increase our chemical process efficiency. This led to both improved yields for the API as well as a reduction in our environmental impact. By designing for sustainability early in the drug development process, we are not only reducing waste and saving on resources, but we may also be able to reduce our drug development time. 

We will continue to leverage green chemistry tools to support our drug development efforts. This includes using tools from the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Round Table with the aim of improving our metrics and moving towards employing lifecycle assessments to better measure our outcomes.

Building on this momentum inside the lab, ourIMPACT recently developed a green chemistry roadmap to help us better implement the principles of green chemistry beyond the lab to ensure that no employee is “part of the precipitate."