A Greener Way to Produce Essential Pharmaceuticals
As a "green" scientist, Dr. Tomáš Hudlicky, Canada Research Chair in Organic Synthesis and Biocatalysis, is focused on developing environmentally friendly methods of making important medicines.
He is combining traditional organic chemistry methods with biological techniques to invent efficient and environmentally benign ways to synthesize natural products and their derivatives. His research has dramatically minimized the waste produced in pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, making them more efficient, cleaner and greener.
Hudlicky and his research team are using biocatalysis (or biotransformations) where special organisms (or isolated enzymes) are used to perform certain chemical reactions in water rather than in organic solvents. This allows substances to be safely produced in fewer steps and with less waste. A key part of developing new drugs is designing and synthesizing “unnatural derivatives” of natural compounds, then trying to enhance their useful properties. Hudlicky and his team are focused on making the new and active derivatives available for developing anti-cancer drugs, and on finding ways to efficiently manufacture naloxone and naltrexone for treating opioid overdoses. They are also designing molecules that induce the controlled death of cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. By looking for ways to make the production of pharmaceuticals “greener,” Hudlicky’s research offers the potential for supporting human health and the environment in the future.