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The nexus between climate change and healthcare

The nexus between climate change and healthcare
2 minute read

If healthcare were a country it would be the 5th largest polluter on the planet, representing 4.4% of the global total.

That's according to Arup.  A footprint of this size highlights the conflict that efforts to improve human health may simultaneously be contributing to the environmental factors that cause it.  The sector has a vital role in reducing emissions.  

Climate leadership within biopharma

In collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the Wellcome Trust and partners hosted the first-ever Health Day at the COP28 UN Climate Conference held in December 2023.  Here senior leaders within biopharma joined world leaders to discuss the links between health and climate change.  Many are already aligning their long-term business strategies with substantial investments in energy efficiency and have made commitments to reduce emissions, setting ambitious targets in line with the SBTi.

Science-based target initiatives (SBTi)

The SBTi develops standards, tools, and guidance to support companies set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets within the goals of the Paris Agreement.

These targets include reductions in Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy), and Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions in the value chain).  Scope 3 emissions are the most significant and challenging source of emissions; The Carbon Trust estimates they could account for 70-90% of the total.

Every 1 kilogram of phosphoramidite base material generates over 10 tons of waste

There are many sources of GHGs.  Synthetic DNA manufactured using the phosphoramidite chemical synthesis process first developed in the 1980s is a significant contributor.  Large volumes of hazardous reagents and solvents are used throughout the manufacturing process, as well as energy-intensive processes in synthesis, purification, and isolation steps.

This paper estimated that every kilogram of phosphoramidite base material generates over 10 tons of waste and is based on a therapeutic manufacturing setting, where the focus is producing high volumes of a single gene.  This provides greater opportunities for recycling materials between steps. 

It's difficult to quantify the impact in lower volume settings since this data isn't published.  However, given the size of the market for synthetic DNA and its use in a broad range of research and discovery applications, the waste produced from single gene constructs distributed across many individual customers is likely to be far higher.

Reducing scope 3 emissions with green synthesis

We support the pharmaceutical sector's commitment to reducing harmful waste from their supply chains and are leading the way with a green synthesis solution for the high-throughput production of synthetic DNA. 

Enzymatic-based DNA synthesis provides an alternative solution; not only does the technology enable the production of long and complex sequences, but it leverages natural enzymes avoiding the use of harsh chemical substances.  Camena's gSynth platform utilizes a proprietary enzyme mix and green chemistry technology that doesn’t rely on the use of organic solvent.

With the pharmaceutical industry scrutinising the sustainability credentials of its supply chains, an option completely independent from phosphoramidite synthesis will support many on their way to achieving net zero emissions.


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