Monday, February 28, 2022

C&EN updates on impacts to chemists in Ukraine

Via Chemical and Engineering News, this update on how Ukrainian chemists are impacted by the Russian invasion (article by Laura Howes , Michael McCoy , Alex Scott , with reporting by Leigh Krietsch Boerner):
...Chemists who work with Ukrainian research chemical firms have also expressed disbelief and solidarity. Ed Griffen of MedChemica is team leader of an initiative called COVID Moonshot, which is working to develop a COVID-19 antiviral. Griffen had been in discussions with the team about visiting an Enamine site in Kyiv. Enamine is a founding member of the COVID Moonshot group, and it has “always gone above and beyond in just getting the job done,” Griffen says in an emailed statement. “Obviously we’re all extremely worried about our team in Kyiv,” he says. “We will stick by them as they have stuck by us.”

Enamine is one of several Kyiv-based companies that supply building block chemicals and compound libraries to the world’s drug companies. The company has partnered with many chemists across the world, says Brian Shoichet at the University of California, San Francisco. Shoichet says an Enamine scientist is currently on sabbatical in his lab and they are now “scrambling” to get him immigration status and grants so that he can stay at UCSF and be paid. Additionally, “we have friends with whom we speak regularly, and who are on many of our papers, now anticipating the arrival of an invading army in their city. It’s a fraught moment,” Shoichet says.

Enamine hopes to reopen on Monday, Feb. 28, according to a statement and video the company posted online. The firm notes that its supply facilities in the US and European Union remain open and can continue to supply building block chemicals.

Life Chemicals, another company that is currently shut down, employs about 120 people in Ukraine, half of whom are chemists. The firm closed its offices and production site in Kyiv for at least Thursday and Friday, Feb. 24 and 25, according to Vasily Pinchuk, the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We will see what will happen on Monday,” he says.

Pinchuk, a Ukrainian who is based in Canada, says martial law is in place, and it is not safe to move around. “There have been air strikes on Kyiv,” he says. “We hope that this nightmare will end.”

Most Life Chemicals employees are still at home in the Kyiv area, Pinchuk says, although some with small children have left for what they hope will be safer places in the western part of the country.

Companies like Enamine and Life Chemicals emerged in Ukraine and Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, when chemists who worked for the state were forced to find new opportunities in the private sector.

Building block and compound library synthesis continues to be a good career path for chemists who graduate from universities such as Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Pinchuk says.“We have a very high level of education,” Pinchuk says of Ukraine, “and very good chemists, and the overhead is less than it is in the US. We can do any kind of synthetic medicine projects that can be asked of us.”

Can't imagine what it would be like to attempt to keep a company and its employees afloat during these kinds of conditions. Continued best wishes to Ukrainian chemists and readers. 

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