With synthesizing new molecular entities (NMEs) our mission in life as chemists, we are innovators, creators even. In drug discovery research, these NMEs stand a good chance of becoming a cure for a major illness or disease. Few roles in life provide such opportunity for making a positive impact on society as does being a medicinal chemist. It is no wonder that we are so emotionally attached and protective of the targets we create, almost in a parental way. This is why we need to carefully manage every step of the NME synthetic process. The question is, how can we ensure that we have full control over one of the most important, yet least enjoyable steps in the process – purification?
Isn’t amazing chemistry what you want to do every day? Don’t you strive for white crystalline final products? But things get in the way, such as other priorities, endless emails and frequent interruptions to your synthetic flow. Not to mention the challenges of designing new synthetic strategies, creating what could be the world’s most impactful new molecular entity. Finding the right reaction, the right reagents. Finding a way to get around yet another dead end. But those challenges are why you got into chemistry in the first place, right? After all, if it was easy, anyone could do it and you’re not just anyone. So let’s look at a few things that can put the fun back into chemistry.
Organic reactions are generally inefficient, which means that crude reaction mixtures require work-up and purification to remove by-products and unreacted starting materials and/or catalysts. The goal in pharmaceutical research is to isolate the target compound with required purity and yield to be able to progress to the next synthetic sequence or biological testing with confidence. But the process of purification is viewed by synthetic chemists as a ‘means-to-an-end’ and the more rapidly and reliably the purification step can be performed the better. Easy enough to state, but hard to achieve when you need to be certain of purity and yield in a single, rapid purification attempt. As we will see here, flash column chromatography can help you achieve this.
Chemistry, by its very nature, involves the use of chemicals that can be harmful, toxic and potentially damaging to the environment, which means that drug discovery currently has a large and expensive environmental footprint. However, all is not lost. With a few small steps it is possible to make a big change to the impact that drug discovery has on our world. Let’s look at ways we can reduce the environmental impact of chemical processing and flash chromatography. This involves using green chemistry applications in the purification workflow to find a solution that reduces chemical waste to make it good for both the chemist and the environment.