Report: 'Green' manufacturing needed to save money as well as the environment

The manufacturing side of the business needs to look for more "green" processes, not only to be more environmentally kind to a burdened planet but also to save costs. It will, however, require buy-in from governments as well as companies, according to a new report.

The new findings are part of the annual report from CPhI, which will hold its annual meeting and show in Paris next month. The report, authored by Vijay Shah, chief operating officer of India's Piramal Enterprises, predicts that "green chemistry" will reach about $100 billion in investments by 2020. But he said that to reap the benefits, governments should reduce regulations and increase incentives. He is also suggesting the creation of a Green Chemistry by Design standard so that companies looking to use new methods know what to shoot for, beginning with research and development. He said contract research and manufacturing services will be key.

"Already we are seeing big pharma looking increasingly to explore greener ways of working and the manufacturing process is a natural progression of this trend. Technologies such as catalysis, flow chemistry, and parallel screening are revolutionizing process research, by creating efficiencies and cost savings," Shah said in the announcement of the report.

There has been some commitment from Big Pharma to more environmentally sensitive processing, but not a lot. CEO Andrew Witty said last year that GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) would invest up to $50 million in a plant in Singapore that will "shift from synthetic chemical reaction to enzymatic reactions, and a whole reframing of how we do analytical testing in all of our facilities. The net-net of all of that is a very significant reduction in process time, very significant reduction in cost, carbon footprint inventory and speed." Witty said the new facility would require only about 100 square meters, compared with the 900-square-meter facilities needed for current methods, representing a huge cost savings.

In July, GSK also committed $25 million for a protein engineering platform technology from Redwood City, CA-based Codexis and will install it at its R&D site in Upper Merion, PA. "We want to find more elegant ways to do the chemical process to make active pharmaceutical ingredients," Mark Buswell, head of advanced manufacturing technologies at GSK, said in an interview at the time. "We have some capabilities we have developed internally, but Codexis has a world-leading process that will advance our efforts by 4 or 5 years."

Contract manufacturer Almac recently joined an effort with Bangor University in Wales and Hockley International to research new ways to make chemicals.

- here's the CPhI release