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Sustainable methods for making medicines

Purdue University researchers have received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help the pharmaceutical industry cost-effectively achieve zero waste in its manufacturing operations.

The pharmaceutical industry today generates large amounts of unused medicines and toxic wastes, reducing profits and degrading the environment. Health problems also result when antibiotics discarded by consumers get back into the food chain, increasing antibiotic resistance.

“Our project is focused on creating a large-scale framework and cyberinfrastructure that can help manufacturing networks to perform more sustainably,” says project leader Shweta Singh, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and environmental and ecological engineering. “We’ll start our proof of concept with the pharmaceutical industry given its high impact on the American manufacturing system during COVID.”

Reusing resources can reduce the need for extracting new raw materials as well as the flow of waste into the environment. However, cost poses a challenge to shifting the pharmaceutical industry away from its linear model toward a circular model.

The project builds on a computational method that Singh and Purdue ABE PhD alumnus Gargeya Vunnava invented for testing new recycling and waste reduction options across industry sectors. They tested their method and tool by showing how to create a circular economy by reusing livestock and industrial wastes in the agro-based manufacturing network such as food and biobased energy production in Illinois.

Singh’s collaborators include Purdue colleagues in chemical and industrial engineering and Information Technology at Purdue Research Computing.

BANNER PHOTO: Shweta Singh, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, and her collaborators Gargeya Vunnava (PhD ’20, agricultural and biological engineering) and Jaewoo Shin, a Purdue PhD student in computer science.

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