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Going Green

Going Green
Dr. Michael Krische in the lab with post-doctoral fellow Andriy Barchuk. Photo: Marsha Miller.

Krische and Barchuk

Medicines are made to heal, but ironically, the chemical reactions used to make them can generate unwanted, toxic wastes that can do harm to humans and the environment.


Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Michael Krische would like to minimize production of these wastes using a new “green chemistry” technique that allows complex molecules to be constructed without generating chemical byproducts.

Krische’s method represents a new adaptation of catalytic hydrogenation, a process that is already widely utilized in the pharmaceutical industry. Typical hydrogenation reactions are used to form bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms.

In a groundbreaking advance, Krische has developed a new class of hydrogenation reactions that enable the formation of bonds between carbon atoms. In these reactions, two or more organic molecules are exposed to hydrogen gas to produce a single, more complex molecule. All atoms present in the initial molecules appear in the final product, so no byproducts or wastes are generated.

Although the process could be used to form nearly any organic compound, from pesticides to perfumes, Krische desires that his discovery be applied to the manufacture of cheap, safe medicines. “I would take great satisfaction if it were broadly adopted by the pharmaceutical industry,” he says.

The method could serve to eliminate pollution at its source.

"This is an environmentally sound way of assembling molecules,” says Krische, “and promises to be more cost-effective than current methods of drug manufacture, since waste stream disposal is not an issue.”

The technique is promising enough that it garnered Krische the 2007 Elias J. Corey Award, presented by the American Chemical Society for outstanding original contributions to organic synthesis by a young investigator.

Of course, there are many ways to synthesize molecules, just like there are many different strategies in a game of chess. But if this were chess, Krische says the new hydrogenation technique would be a queen. “In chess, with a sufficiently powerful piece, laborious strategies can be avoided,” he says.

Krische says his process, albeit powerful, is one more tool in the toolbox for drug companies, one more piece on the chessboard.

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Sunday, 26 September 2021

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