Process chemists improve the method used for making the active chemical compound to enable it to be made reliably in kilogram quantities.

A compound that shows very good activity for treatment of a particular disease might be selected for further development. This is known as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). This compound could have been found through high-throughput screening, where many different compounds are tested quickly, by a chemical technologist.

Once a candidate molecule has been selected for development, process chemists scale up and improve the synthetic route to produce the compound on a much larger scale – several kilograms at a time. The compound will be used in further tests, for example to check that it is not likely to be harmful.

Various different alternative synthetic routes will be investigated, until an optimal method is developed. This will take into account a range of factors, including those relating to cost, efficiency, environmental impact and safety. The quality of the method used is highly important, and improvements are made and implemented wherever possible.

If you want to find out more about process chemistry, from someone working in the field, take a look at this case study of a process chemist.

Last modified: 20 October 2023

Last reviewed: 20 October 2023