Chemical engineers work in a diverse range of industries, including the petroleum industry, drug designing, healthcare, construction, petrochemicals, cosmetics, etc. Among all these industries, the healthcare industry is the fastest-evolving industry, medical machinery, drugs, and health supplements are always in high demand. Let us know ‘Do Chemical Engineers Make Medicine?’.
The healthcare industry is not only about chemists, doctors & nurses, there is a much larger team working behind the curtain. The team of engineers works collectively to cover all the requirements of the doctors. And chemical engineers are one of the most significant contributors to the manufacturing process.
Shifting from a laboratory to a huge manufacturing unit can be challenging in many ways, vaporization of chemicals can cause unexpected heat, the composition of compounds can change, uniform solution formation can be tougher, and similar problems can arise. Dealing with these problems is what chemical engineers learn in their degrees.
But we haven’t found out their role in medicine! How do they contribute to the manufacturing of medicines? Or do they even contribute to it? Let’s take a look.
Roles of chemical engineers in medicine manufacturing
Chemical engineers are hired by the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that the tasks run smoothly and the company is constantly making its products better. Many tasks are done by chemical engineers, some of them are listed here.
1. Reducing the cost wherever possible (mainly in the manufacturing process and the instruments used). It is mainly done by replacing the fuel, making reactions spontaneous, and decreasing storage space.
2. Research & Development (R&D) to analyze the existing working of the unit, the medicines, and the pathway, and to suggest a better alternative in terms of cost, efficiency and time.
3. Making medicine making simpler. By studying a reaction, preparing mathematical models, and finding optimum reaction conditions, the entire process is optimized as per the requirements of the industry.
Do chemical engineers make medicine?
Making medicine is an extremely complex process, before curing a disease, one must understand the disease and the human body deeply. This task is generally done by pharmacists and chemists.
Implementing the manufacturing process designed by pharmacists and chemists is the task of a chemical engineer. What is the best machine that can be used to achieve a reaction temperature? What technology can be used to centrifuge a drug? How to increase the yield of a particular reaction?
So, yes! Chemical engineers do make medicines. They work in production plants, labs as well as offices. Major innovations in the medicine manufacturing industry are done by chemical engineers. The roles of pharmacists and chemists are limited to laboratories, but chemical engineers witness the entire process, from drug designing to packaging.
The usage of microwave and ultrasound methods is possible only because of chemical engineers. They analyze the properties of a particular drug through processes like Infra-Red, X-Ray Diffraction, and NMR, and make sure that that drug is serving its objective.
It will be safe to say that chemical engineers are the backbone of the pharmaceutical industry. People usually believe that chemical engineering is an entirely different domain than pharmacy, and confusion between making and designing drugs is the reason behind that.
Making medicines vs designing medicine
Designing chemicals/medicine requires a deep knowledge of analytical chemistry, heterocyclic rings in organic chemistry, human body morphology, and biochemistry. Along with this, an understanding and research of the behavior of that chemical in the human body are super important. In every country, there is regulating body that reviews this research and shows a green flag that this drug is safe for human or animal consumption.
On the other hand, the task of a chemical engineer is to make sure that the quantity required for that drug is being produced by the industry safely. It deals with the machinary and methodology. Unlike the designing team, they use applied sciences, such as mathematical modeling, fluid dynamics, separation methods, mechanics, and industrial chemistry.
Talking about just the process of drug manufacturing, chemical engineers’ job is easier as compared to chemists and pharmacists. The reason behind this is that they don’t invent anything new and don’t have to go through legal work.
If chemists and pharmacists are the architects of medicine, then chemical engineers are the civil engineers. One designs a building, and the other gives it a shape and stable structure, both interdependent.
As discussed already, a chemical engineer acts as a civil engineer in the medicine production plant. Scaling a medicine from the laboratory to the factory is the primary task of a chemical engineer in a pharmacy. Despite this essential role in a the industry, they cannot join the industry as pharmacists. They will strictly have to work in the factory as a chemical engineer.
Concluding the discussion, it can be said that imagining a pharmaceutical company without a chemical engineer is similar to imagining road construction without a contractor.
- How do chemical engineers make medicines?
They design the process of manufacturing. They take care of the optimum reaction conditions like temperature, pressure, the concentration of reagents, catalyst, and volume. They develop new techniques to increase the yield and decrease the time and cost.
- Are chemical engineers paid well in medicine?
The salary of a chemical engineer is almost similar in all sectors. They don’t earn as much as doctors and nurses, but their salary is one of the top-paying jobs. If you are a plant manager, consulting engineer, or process engineer then the chances of you getting a good salary are extremely high.
- How tough is it to join a pharmaceutical company as a chemical engineer?
Chemical engineers are, and will always be in high demand in the pharma industry. If you are in a locality which has more companies, then the chances of you getting a job is high. But must keep one thing in mind, you cannot join the pharma industry on a post other than a chemical engineer. If you have a good CV and a passion to work in pharma, it’ll be a cup of tea.