A successful 32nd Process Development Symposium

23 Apr 2015

This year’s event attracted over 140 delegates from Europe, North America, Asia and even as far away as Australia. Organised by the SCI Fine Chemicals Group, the symposium aims to bring together a wide range of speakers from across the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and fine chemical industries, as well as from academia. The event was scheduled in a pre-Easter slot for a second year after positive feedback from 2014 and spring sunshine welcomed attendees to Cambridge for the 2015 meeting.

A broad scope of topics were presented to delegates during the meeting, covering the diverse subject of process development. Case histories describing the synthesis of novel small molecule pharmaceuticals were provided by GSK, Johnson and Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Indivior. Dr Paul Varley (MedImmune) gave an interesting insight into the manufacture of Biopharmaceuticals and the challenges faced as the application of protein therapeutics continues to rise. Process safety, mutagenic impurity control, NMR, electrochemical synthesis and waste recycling were other subjects covered during the meeting.

The growing influence of flow chemistry in fine chemical manufacture was observed throughout the meeting where a number of talks touched on the advantages of continuous processing.  Prof John Blacker described new flow processes for the synthesis of chiral amines and Dr Marie Kissane (Eli Lilly) demonstrated the use of a homogeneous catalytic hydrogenation of an imine in flow, now being used on a commercial scale.

Dr Rob Bream from the European Medicines Agency provided a regulators’ view on the definition of starting materials for the synthesis of an active substance. Currently a hot topic within the pharmaceutical industry, the talk generated some good discussion amongst the audience.

New developments in C-H activation chemistry were presented by Prof Igor Larrosa (University of Manchester). An initial reliance on stoichiometric silver acetate (an issue for large scale industrial application) as an additive in the Pd-catalysed ortho-arylation of 2-benzoic acids, was overcome by replacing with a far cheaper alternative in trimethyl-ammonium acetate. The reaction was shown to have good substrate scope and even demonstrated to give >85% yield on a 200g scale – large for an academic lab!

‘I found it was an excellent selection of process related topics, much broader than I would have expected it to be, and it definitely expanded my understanding of the area. The various breaks provided ample opportunity for discussing with many of my industry colleagues in a very relaxed atmosphere, particularly during the wine reception and follow up dinner.’
Prof Igor Larrosa

To encourage the next generation of process chemists, 5 students received bursaries from the organising companies to attend the 3 day conference. The programme also provided ample time for attendees to explore the 16 exhibition stands, network and socialise.  The organisers wish to thank Johnson Matthey for their generous sponsorship of the wine mixer on Wednesday evening. Scientific discussions continued well into the evening for many delegates! 

The Syngenta, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline prize for Process Chemistry Research for 2014 was presented to Professor Steven Nolan (University of St. Andrews). His lecture described his group’s advances in the field of late transition metal catalysis, in particular the synthesis and reactivity of N-heterocyclic carbene-gold complexes.

‘The conference was a unique forum for exchange with industrial process scientists - not only process chemists. As an academic, it was great to interact in a very approachable manner with scientists in such a relaxed environment where everyone obviously enjoyed being in this beautiful venue.’
Prof Steven Nolan

After a very successful meeting, the organisers and delegates can look forward with anticipation to the 33rd meeting which will be held once again at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK from 6 – 8 April 2016. If you would like to considered as a speaker for the 2016 conference please contact Jacqui Maguire from SCI (conferences@soci.org) by the end of July 2015.

The organising committee look forward to seeing you all again next year, updates on the programme will be shared via the event website and LinkedIn.

Dr David Pascoe
Fine Chemicals Group

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