Product Lifecycle

We are working to lessen the impacts of our therapies throughout their product lifecycles.

Decreasing Lifecycle Impacts with Green Chemistry

In 2009, we formed a Green Chemistry Committee to help us better understand how we could incorporate the principles of green chemistry into our processes to improve efficiency, safety and the environmental impact of our products. In 2010, the Committee produced a Green Chemistry charter and worked to educate employees about green chemistry by creating informational materials, issuing a green chemistry newsletter and hosting seminars featuring green chemistry experts.

We have begun applying these principles to the development and manufacture of our products. For example, in 2010, our Chemical Process Research and Development team reviewed the entire process to make BG-12, a compound in Phase III trials for treatment of relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). The process improvements that were implemented resulted in:

  • A shortened chemical reaction (from 24 to three hours), reducing the energy needed to make the compound;
  • Identification of the minimum amount of solvent needed to remove impurities from the product, reducing chemical use;
  • A reduction in drying time from 48 to 12 hours, saving energy; and
  • Increased yield during the crystallization process, reducing the number of batches needed to supply the product overall.

These improvements are predicted to save 3,500 kWh hours, 1,000 liters of solvent and 260 operator hours per metric ton of product.

Leveraging Disposable Bioprocess Bags

Traditionally, our therapies are manufactured in stainless steel vessels using a clean-in-place system, which requires approximately 1,000 liters of water and 170 liters of chemicals for each cleaning. In 2009, we worked with the contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) who produce our clinical drug product to replace the stainless steel vessels with disposable bioprocess bags. Lifecycle assessments conducted on disposable technologies like bioprocess bags have shown that they have less overall environmental impact versus stainless steel vessels, namely in carbon footprint1. These bags decrease water and chemicals needed to clean the vessels, resulting in shorter work shifts and a streamlined, less wasteful manufacturing process. As a contained and sterile environment, the bags also reduce the risk of foreign matter contamination. Because these therapies are primarily purified proteins, the bags are considered biohazardous and cannot be recycled; however, we will continue to explore ways to recycle them and dispose of them in an environmentally responsible way. We estimate the use of bags saved between $500,000 and $1 million in 2010.

Managing our Supply Chain for Sustainability

Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond our internal operations to our suppliers, which is why we are engaging with them to drive sustainable business practices. Since joining the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), we have worked with other members to help develop the Pharmaceutical Industry Principles for Responsible Supply Chain Management (PSCI Principles), which address responsible business practices including ethics, human rights, health and safety, and environment.

In 2010, we informed our largest suppliers of our intentions to evaluate them against the PSCI Principles, and asked our top suppliers, representing 60 percent of our global sourceable spend, to answer questions about their sustainability practices and confirm their support of these principles. In 2011, we will review and assess the survey responses and develop an action plan moving forward.

1Sinclair et. al. “The Environmental Impact of Disposable Technologies: Can disposables reduce your facility's environmental footprint? BioPharm International © November 2008 supplement.