JPS Luncheon: R. P. “Skip” Volante, “Innovation as the Driver of Green Chemistry Advances in the Pharmaceutical Industry: The Merck Model”

R.P. 'Skip' Volante

R. P. “Skip” Volante

This installment of the Joseph Priestley Society (JPS) lecture series included the keynote address “Innovation as the Driver of Green Chemistry Advances in the Pharmaceutical Industry: The Merck Model” by R. P. “Skip” Volante, former vice president and global leader, Process Chemistry, Merck Research Laboratories.


The role of green chemistry is to encourage the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. The chemical and pharmaceutical industries are known for making more waste than product. As the facilities of these industries churn out their intended products, they squander energy in often hazardous reactions that consume energy and produce excessive waste. Merck’s embrace of green chemistry is intended to change that perception while also significantly reducing production costs. In summary, green chemistry makes business sense.

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About the speaker:

R. P. "Skip" Volante began his career at Merck in 1977 as a senior research chemist in process research. He held a variety of positions in the company and was ultimately promoted to vice president and global leader, Process Chemistry, in 2009. He retired from Merck in 2011.

Volante's major achievements or areas of responsibility included a number of Merck products, including Imipenem, Singlulair, and Crixivan. He directed the team that completed the first total synthesis of the 23-membered macrolide immunosuppresant FK-506. Volante is the author or co-author of over 100 scientific publications and is an inventor or co-inventor of over 70 U.S.-issued patents.

Volante has received the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for development of the Crixivan process (1997) and the MRL Divisional Scientific Award for Crixivan (1998). In addition, under Volante's leadership, the Merck Process Chemistry Group won the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in the Alternative Synthetic Pathways category three times for the development of the synthetic manufacturing process for Emend (2005) and Januvia (2006 and 2010).

After graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1971, Volante received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1976 under the direction of Nobel laureate E. J. Corey.

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