Dr. Jason Gavenonis, Chemistry

Drug Discovery and Development

The goal of my participation was to augment my “CHEM 490 – Drug Discovery and Development” course to add focus on the environmental impact of the pharmaceutical industry. The initial idea was to build upon the concepts of Green Chemistry explored in the course’s prerequisite “CHEM 242 – Organic Chemistry 2,” which is also a Sustainability Connections course, with particular emphasis on both manufacturing and the ultimate environmental fate of both metabolized and discarded pharmaceuticals.

Both from spontaneous in-class discussions about opiates, antibiotics, and antidepressants when I last taught this course and from a deeper exploration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals during the Valley and Ridge workshop, it was clear that merely examining environmental impacts was an insufficiently ambitious goal for this workshop. Students in this class already have a progressive, scaffolded assignment in which they research the molecular, cellular, and organismal mechanism of a drug’s action. This semester-long project is being expanded from five assignments to eight, using the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to have students examine the historical context of their drug’s development, the economic and social impacts of their drug’s use, and the environmental impact of the drugs manufacture, usage, and disposal. This will culminate in a class discussion of the net societal impact of each drug when examined in the context of the UN’s SDGs. As with the existing portions of the project, each of these new assignments will be introduced with a relevant case study. With one new learning goal explicitly addressing sustainability, it is anticipated that this course will carry the Sustainability Connections designation.