New Drugs…Smaller Footprint

Professor Deryn Fogg is standing in her office wearing a black shirt and a black blazer

Professor Deryn Fogg (University of Ottawa), and Professor Vidar Jensen (University of Bergen, Norway)

Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences

University of Ottawa professor Deryn Fogg and Norwegian professor Vidar Jensen from the University of Bergen have joined forces this past year in a collaboration aimed at developing long-lived, selective catalysts for the formation of carbon–carbon bonds. This partnership has been funded through a prestigious “blue sky” award from the Research Council of Norway.

The catalytic reaction they are targeting, “olefin metathesis,” was recognized with the Nobel Prize in 2005 for its potential to enable more environmentally sustainable ways to build new drug molecules. However, the short lifetimes and high costs of the catalysts have been a challenge for uptake in pharmaceutical manufacturing: the first process was implemented by Janssen Pharmaceuticals only in 2014. This was key to the production of a new hepatitis C virus (HCV) inhibitor (one of a spectacular series of successes that have rendered hepatitis C curable), with HCV therapies remaining the most prominent application. Building on their research on identifying major catalyst decomposition pathways, Professor Fogg and her team are now designing new catalysts that resist decomposition and that will help expand uptake.

They hope to take this methodology even further by developing catalysts that enable access to HCV inhibitors and related drug targets without the current need to operate at very high dilutions. The solvents required for controlled chemical reaction account for the majority of the materials used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. While used solvents can often be recycled by distillation, the energy costs are high. Overcoming the requirement for huge solvent volumes would aid significantly in reducing the environmental burden of these important processes.

Professor Fogg recently accepted a full professor II appointment at Bergen, alongside her current full professor position at the University of Ottawa. Over the past 20 years, she has helped build uOttawa’s Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation (CCRI) and turn it into a facility with capabilities unmatched in academia elsewhere in the world. With her new Bergen affiliation and working with researchers at the forefront of computational methods, she seeks to build new capacity for catalysis science in Canada, Norway and beyond.

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