FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 29, 2009

ACS Pharma Roundtable awards Yale chemist $160,000 to develop greener catalysts

WASHINGTON -- The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable has awarded a $160,000 grant to Yale University chemistry professor Robert Crabtree, Ph.D. The two-year grant will support Dr. Crabtree’s efforts to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly chemical catalysts, which are required to make the drugs used by millions of people worldwide each day.

The Pharmaceutial Roundtable is a partnership between the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute® and global pharmaceutical corporations for the purpose of using green chemistry and engineering to make drug manufacturing safer, less costly and more environmentally benign.

“The Roundtable companies are very proud to be supporting the research of Professor Robert Crabtree,” said Roundtable co-chairs Andrew Wells, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist, AstraZeneca Global Process R&D, and Peter Dunn, Ph.D., Pfizer Green Chemistry Lead, in a joint statement. “Increasing the efficiency of synthetic routes using improved catalytic techniques and avoiding potentially mutagenic alkylating agents are high priorities for the pharmaceutical industry, and this research project promises to extend and improve the methodology that is available to the chemistry community.”

Dr. Crabtree’s work focuses on developing catalysts derived from iron, copper, cobalt and other metals that are cheaper, safer and simpler than traditional methods. Catalysts — which are used to speed the rate of chemical reactions or lower the energy required to make them happen — have an important role in drug production. In favorable cases, catalysts can provide high selectivity, avoiding time-consuming steps in the drug synthesis process that also produce waste. In addition, many of the substances commonly used to create classical catalysts, such as platinum, iridium and chloride, are expensive and can cause environmental problems.

“The novelty of our work is bringing together all of these features in one system and applying it to pharmaceutically important reactions,” Dr. Crabtree said. “That’s the key.”

One goal of the Pharmaceutical Roundtable is to develop green chemistry alternatives for these commonly used catalysts. Dr. Crabtree’s research will help propel those efforts, according to ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Director, Bob Peoples, Ph.D.

The Roundtable grants are awarded for research aimed at creating greener pathways to drug production that result in improved environmental benefits. This year’s grant in support of Dr. Crabtree’s research, Atom Economic Alcohol Activation and Amide Synthesis Using Base-Metal Catalysts Heterogenized on Titania Nanoparticles, will be funded through December 2010. Since the grant program began in 2007, it has provided $650,000 in funding.

Originally founded in 1997, the Green Chemistry Institute joined the American Chemical Society in 2001. The Institute’s Pharmaceutical Roundtable was formed in 2005 and is a partnership between ACS and an alliance of major pharmaceutical companies. It strives to integrate green chemistry and engineering in the business of drug discovery and production. The activities of the Roundtable reflect the joint belief that the pursuit of green chemistry and green engineering is imperative for a sustainable business and world environment. Current Roundtable members include AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Co. Inc., Pfizer Inc., Schering-Plough, Wyeth, and Boehringer-Ingelheim.

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For more information about the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and the Pharmaceutical Roundtable, visit

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Julie Manley


Marvin Coyner