Dr Deborah Crawford MSci, PhD

Dr Deborah Crawford

School of Chemistry
Assistant Professor of Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing

Contact details

Address
School of Chemistry
Haworth Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT

Deborah Crawford is an Assistant Professor in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing. As an Early Career Researcher, Deborah has published > 20 peer-reviewed research papers in scientific journals focusing on the use of twin-screw extrusion to carry out scaled up mechanochemical synthesis.

Deborah is an enthusiastic researcher in the area of green, sustainable chemistry whose research has been highlighted by IUPAC as one of the top ten innovations that changed the world and in magazine publications such as Chemistry World and Chemical & Engineering News (cen).

In her advocacy for the implementation of green principles and processes in chemical synthesis and manufacturing, Deborah has engaged and worked with several industrial collaborators, including Johnson Matthey.    

Qualifications

  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • PhD in Chemistry (2015)
  • MSci in Chemistry (2010)

Biography

Deborah obtained her MSci in Chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast in 2010, she also carried out research at Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL), conducting Friedel Craft reactions in ionic liquids and preparing ionic liquids with antimicrobial properties. Deborah went on to carry out a PhD at the same institution, receiving her PhD in 2015 with a dissertation on the synthesis of diphosphine digold(I) complexes that involved investigation of their structural and optical properties, under the supervision of Dr C. Lagunas. Onwards, she spent one year seconded into the spin out company MOF Technologies Ltd., funded by the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, focusing on the manufacture of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs). Deborah was then appointed as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, under the supervision of Professor S. L. James, to investigate synthesis by extrusion. This involves carrying out both organic and inorganic synthesis in the solid state, in the complete absence of solvent, promoting the possibility of making the manufacture of fine chemicals environmentally sustainable. Subsequent to this, Deborah then undertook another Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, with Professor James, investigating new hosts for Porous Liquids. These are novel materials invented by Professor James to incorporate fluidity into porous materials. Deborah continues to be involved in this work. Deborah was then appointed as a Lecturer in Bio-Organic Chemistry in the School of Chemistry and Biosciences at the University of Bradford (January 2020). She is now a newly appointed Assistant Professor in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing.

 Her main research focus on investigating the mechanochemical preparation and manufacture of biodegradable active pharmaceutical ingredients. This is in response to the cost of modern medicine on the environment, particularly regarding:

  •  Unsustainable API Manufacture: In the pharmaceutical industry, 80% of the waste generated by the manufacturing process is solvent alone. This has been one of the key drivers in the development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UK 25 Year Environmental Plan and the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (USA).
  •  Accumulation of APIs in the Environment: Recently, several studies have been published describing the adverse effects that both prescribed and illegal drugs are having on the environment. Wilkinson et al. investigated API pollution in 137 rivers across the world and showed that UK rivers are in the top 20% of the polluted rivers tested, with an average API concentration of ca. 10,000 ngL-1. These APIs are non-biodegradable, and accumulate in the environment, having an adverse effect on wildlife, and in the case of antibiotics, increasing bacterial resistance.

Teaching

Deborah has experience in teaching Organic Chemistry, Spectroscopy, Inorganic Chemistry and Bio-inorganic Chemistry.

Deborah is currently teaching on the Life Cycle Assessment module as part of the Sustainability pPostgraduate Programme. 

Postgraduate supervision

Deborah is currently co-supervisor on two PhD studentships.

Research

The development of the pharmaceutical industrial in the 19th century has significantly improved society’s quality of life and it is now one of the most prominent industries in the UK (after tourism and finance), being worth £7 billion. However, the benefit of modern medicine comes at a cost to the environment, particularly regarding:

  • Unsustainable API Manufacture: The manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) typically requires large quantities of highly distilled solvents (energy intensive), extreme (high and low) temperatures and long reaction times. In the pharmaceutical industry, 80% of the waste generated by the manufacturing process is solvent alone. This has been one of the key drivers in the development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UK 25 Year Environmental Plan and the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (USA).
  • Accumulation of APIs in the Environment: Recently, several studies have been published describing the adverse effects that both prescribed and illegal drugs are having on the environment. Wilkinson et al. investigated API pollution in 137 rivers across the world and showed that the River Clyde in Glasgow is in the top 10% of the polluted rivers tested, with an API concentration of ca. 10,000 ngL-1. These APIs are non-biodegradable, and accumulate in the environment, having an adverse effect on wildlife, and in the case of antibiotics, increasing bacterial resistance.

It is imperative that we address both problems to preserve our environment for the continuation of a healthy existence, providing food, clean air, and water. This project combines and builds upon our work on the mechanochemical synthesis of APIs, and the work of Kümmerer, redesigning API molecules, rendering them biodegradable. We have preliminary results employing TSE to synthesise, on large scale and under solvent-free conditions, known APIs whose structure has been modified to make them biodegradable (with shorter life spans in the environment), whilst retaining their pharmacological activity. This will eventually be applied to a large library of APIs, having a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry, environment, and society.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Lai, B, Liu, S, Cahir, J, Sun, Y, Yin, H, Youngs, T, Tan, J-C, Fonrouge, SF, PĆ³polo, MGD, Borioni, JL, Crawford, DE, Alexander, FM, Li, C, Bell, SEJ, Murrer, B & James, SL 2023, 'Liquids with High Compressibility', Advanced Materials. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202306521

View all publications in research portal