In our more environmentally aware climate, chemical and pharmaceutical companies now prioritize reducing organic solvent use in chemistry labs. Employees and shareholders alike are pushing their companies to become greener which impacts how chemistry, both synthesis and purification, is performed.
Reversed-phase flash chromatography usage is increasing rapidly. In fact, over the past 10 or so years, reversed-phase flash chromatography use has increased a dramatic 650%! This is amazing growth despite the fact that reversed-phase flash columns are considerably more expensive than silica columns and you need to evaporate water from your fractions. So, what’s driving this change in chemists’ modus operandi?
In this post, I will explain why chemists are increasingly using reversed-phase flash chromatography for routine, intermediate, and final compound purification and provide and example as well.
Most flash column manufacturers now offer “high performance” flash chromatography columns with the promise of higher loading, increased purity, and even reduced solvent consumption. Working for Biotage, I have made those valid claims for our products as well.
For most synthesis and natural product chemists, flash chromatography is the primary tool for purification and isolation of compounds of interest. Purification methods include flash system defaulted linear gradients (e.g. 0-100%), active gradient modification (on-the-fly) during purification, and unique method creation based one either the chemist’s experience or TLC data (typically a linear gradient).
Learn more about how to get in control of your Flash Purification.With Biotage® Selekt and Sfär chemists can be in full control of Flash Purification.
I think that the phrase ‘creative productivity’ captures the essence of an organic chemist’s work. It’s not about the number of new molecules produced per day at all. Creative organic chemists have much more in common with prolific artists and craftspeople. Prolific chemists are relentless discoverers of synthetic pathways that result in a stream of new molecules in, for example, pharmaceutical research. Being prolific involves dealing with the complexities of synthetic pathways, completing projects, and strategizing the next steps once the SAR study results are in. Increasing productivity involves knowledge, and applying it, using the right tools.
New drug substances, the result of more than a decade of pharmaceutical research and development, have revolutionized society by saving lives, increasing life-spans, reducing suffering, avoiding surgery, and shortening hospital stays. New breakthroughs in the treatment of non-communicable diseases mean that drug substances are in a constant state of high demand, making the pharmaceutical industry one of the most innovative of industries on the globe. Why then, do so few drugs come to market? It turns out that a key factor is providing drug discovery chemists with tools such as automated flash chromatography to ensure that they can be confident in delivering target compounds in a timely fashion.
OK. We get it. You aren’t a molecule factory. Creating the right target molecule as soon as possible in order to keep your pharmaceutical research project moving isn’t easy or routine. Frankly, organic chemistry is hard and unpredictable. As Professor Gilbert Stork said, “Unless the molecule is very simple, it is not possible to go into the lab and make it within a short period of time.” His ‘Rule of Seven’ meant that, “however long you think a synthesis will take, multiply it by seven”.1
First, join me on a flashback to my past as a discovery chemist just fresh out of grad school and eager to make a difference in pharmaceutical research. I was advised by my boss to model my behavior after a colleague and labmate with a reputation of being highly productive and successful. I was also informed that ‘chemist productivity’ was measured by 1) the number of compounds (of sufficient quantity and quality) he/she registered in the company’s database and 2) meeting project milestones.
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.
Chromatographic purification methods such as flash chromatography can have a high environmental impact since they typically involve large quantities of harmful or toxic solvents run at high flow rates. In many laboratories the cost of procuring and then disposing of these solvents can be a major part of the overall cost of projects. For the chemist, trying to reduce the environmental impact of small molecule synthesis is part of being a good global citizen. Here are three strategies that greatly reduce the environmental impact of flash purifications. It can also save money in the long run by reducing the cost of chemical waste disposal.