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Drug Discovery

Synthesis restarts at Kyiv-based synthesis firms

Staff at Enamine and Life Chemicals have returned to lab work, over a month since Russia invaded Ukraine

by Laura Howes
April 11, 2022


Researchers wearing lab coats, safety glasses and surgical marks stand by a fume hood. A female researcher holds a pen in her hand for drawing on the glass.
Credit: Enamine
Enamine chemists at work before the invasion. The company has now restarted its synthesis work.

As Russian troops have withdrawn from territory around Kyiv, Ukraine, pharmaceutical chemical firms are restarting their labs and hope to return to some sort of normal.

Kyiv-based companies such as Enamine and Life Chemicals are among the world’s largest providers of the screening compounds and building block chemicals drug discovery firms need for early-stage research. When Russian troops invaded on Feb. 24, the companies had hoped that the disruption to their synthesis work would only last a few days. But it soon became clear that it would not be safe to keep these sites running. Now, work is resuming.

On April 7, Andrey Tolmachov, Enamine’s CEO, announced that the Kyiv-based company is heading back to work. The firm will avoid performing large-scale synthesis to start with, he said, but “we confirm that a major part of our synthetic operations can be performed, and that our chemists and biologists are ready and motivated.”

According to Enamine’s head of medicinal chemistry, Ivan Kondratov, the company’s 300-odd staff have been keen to return to work. Safety remains a priority, however. “Of course, if the situation becomes dangerous again, we are ready to stop operating again,” he says.

Life Chemicals has restarted shipping from its main storage site in Kyiv in addition to its facilities in Germany and the US. Vasily Pinchuk, the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing, says its chemists have also restarted lab work. “People who remained in Kyiv are back at work and many of those who left to safer areas, are on their way back,” he says in an email. “Things are still far from being normal but definitely moving that way.”

In the last few days, European leaders, including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have visited Kyiv, demonstrating the change in the fortunes of the Ukrainian capital. Russian aggression has now turned to the southern and eastern parts of the country, which house manufacturing sites for other facets of Ukraine’s chemical industry.



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