31st SCI Process Development Symposium

12 May 2014

Over 150 delegates from Europe, Asia and North America attended the 31st Process Development Symposium, which was organised by the Fine Chemicals Group. A move from the traditional December slot gave attendees the chance to leave warm coats and scarves at home and experience Cambridge under more attractive circumstances. Many of the delegates reported their preference for the new timing.

The quality and breadth of presentations continues to be a recurring theme of this meeting. The increasing ambition levels for synthetic chemistry in pharma development were exemplified by Yi-Yin Ku (AbbVie) showing how asymmetric transformations are now commonplace. Prof Jianliang Xiao (University of Liverpool) and Andy Wells (IMI Chem 21 / Charnwood Technical Consulting) reinforced this with illustrations of supporting advances in metal and enzymatic biocatalysis respectively.

Process development is more than just chemical synthesis in larger vessels though. Approaches based on process analytical technology (PAT) were a feature of several talks. Among them, Prof Brian Glennon (University College, Dublin) demonstrated how process modelling and control could be used to restrict particle size during crystallisations. The incorporation of process understanding in regulatory submissions was presented by Matt Popkin (GSK), and the different expectations of regulators and industry resonated with the audience.

Several presenters shared experiences of the rise in continuous processing to address safety and sustainability issues. Prof Frans Muller (University of Leeds iPRD) presented on his experiences with continuous hydrogenation using slurries. Junku Park (SK Biopharmaceuticals) also highlighted scalable access to 'batch-unfriendly' transformations - anyone for dehydrogenation at 600°C ?

The GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Syngenta and Pfizer Prize for Process Chemistry Research for 2013 was presented to Prof Kevin Booker-Milburn (University of Bristol). His accounts of using synthetic photochemistry to effect unconventional transformations and rapid access to novel ring systems with simple practical approaches was sure to have any previously unconvinced attendees raiding the lighting aisles of DIY stores to try their luck.

This meeting is well known for its social side. The programme provided ample time for attendees to explore the many exhibitors' stands. The organisers wish to thank Johnson Matthey and AMRI Global for their generous sponsorship of the wine mixers and discussions continued well into the evening for many attendees.

To encourage future generations of process chemists, 14 students received bursaries from the organising companies to attend. Pleasingly at least one is now committed to pursuing a career in process development.

We had some very encouraging feedback following the event, including the following:

  • 'The conference provides a great opportunity for academics to find out about real, industrial problems. Many of the chemical giants are present and there is lots of opportunity for informal discussions' Frans Muller.
  • 'Don't forget there are always possibilities to meet old friends and find new ones in the lecture theatre or over a pint. The opportunity to meet delegates of diverse expertise provided an ideal place to garner ideas for future directions.' Jianliang Xiao.

After a very successful meeting, the organisers and delegates can look forward with anticipation to the 32nd meeting which will be held once again at Churchill College Cambridge from 25-27 March 2015. For those signed up to LinkedIn, there is a group to allow attendees to maintain contacts made during the meeting (see below.)

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.

Louis Diorazio,

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