The National Science Foundation has granted Purdue University researchers a $3 million grant to explore new pharma waste reduction strategies.
While many life science companies have prioritized sustainability initiatives, the pharmaceutical industry continues to generate substantial sums of toxic waste.
“It’s a waste problem that causes economic, social and environmentally negative impact,” noted project leader Shweta Singh, Purdue University associate professor, in a news release.
Improper disposal of antibiotics, in particular, can be problematic, fueling antibiotic resistance.
“Our project is focused on creating a large-scale framework and cyberinfrastructure that can help manufacturing networks to perform more sustainably,” said Singh. “We’ll start our proof of concept with the pharmaceutical industry, given its high impact on the American manufacturing system during COVID.”
The transition to a circular economy–based approach in the pharmaceutical industry won’t be easy, Singh said in a statement, noting that the industry is currently based on a linear model of “take, make and dispose.”
“If there is an additional cost, where do we get the incentives to do it?” Singh asked. “There are no algorithms that can help industries do it in the most resilient way.”While the notion of a circular economy in manufacturing is trendy, no company knows how and what will be the consequences of such a transition,” Singh said in a news release. “That’s what we are fundamentally focusing on to create knowledge and tools for a sustainable transition to a circular economy.”
In 2021, Singh created new tools to identify opportunities to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Purdue researchers demonstrated that the tools could reduce industrial waste in an agro-based manufacturing network in Illinois.
In the recent initiative, Singh and colleagues will collaborate with industry partners to refine and test the proposed algorithms and cyber infrastructure intended to promote sustainable manufacturing.
Singh will also work with Purdue colleagues with backgrounds in chemical engineering, computing and industrial engineering.
In June, Purdue University announced its intent to launch a new institute focused on pharmaceutical manufacturing to reduce costs and improve access to new biotech drugs.