Business digest

C&I Issue 12, 2021

Read time: 7 mins

Johnson Matthey (JM) has joined the newly formed International Hydrogen Energy Centre. The IHEC aims to accelerate the development of solutions for the large-scale production, transportation, storage and use of hydrogen with the aim of enabling the world to transition to a net zero carbon emission society. Separately, JM has pledged to invest ca £1bn in the research, development and deployment of clean hydrogen technologies by 2030. Following a detailed review and ahead of reaching a number of critical, investment milestones, JM has concluded that the potential returns from its battery materials business will not be adequate to justify further investment, and has decided to pursue the sale of all or parts of this business with the ultimate intention of exiting.

Arxada, a global specialty chemicals business, will invest CHF20m in its industrial biotechnological plant in Kouřim, Czech Republic. The plant serves the CDMO part of its Specialty Products Solutions business.

Bayer and Microsoft will enter a strategic partnership to build a new cloud-based set of digital tools and data science solutions for use in agriculture and adjacent industries. Under the agreement, Bayer will work with Microsoft to co-develop new solutions that address critical industry scenarios such as farming operations, sustainable sourcing, manufacturing and supply chain improvement.

Biosynth Carbosynth, a life sciences reagents and custom synthesis and manufacturing services company, and Jinan Shengquan Group Share-Holding have announced the acquisition of Kexing Biopharmaceutical’s raw material factory in Jinan, China. This acquisition allows the group more flexibility and larger production volumes together with an increased production reliability.

Global chemicals company Kemira has announced the completion of its production capacity expansion in the UK. From November 2021, annual production of ferric-based water treatment chemicals in Goole was increased by more than 100,000t/year. Kemira produces in excess of 350,000t of water treatment chemicals annually at its four manufacturing sites in the UK. These products are used at water treatment facilities to produce drinking water from natural surface waters.

Haldor Topsoe and Green Fuel have entered into a memorandum of understanding to identify efficient and scalable technologies for the production of green ammonia in Iceland and explore other business opportunities within green ammonia. As part of its plan to produce green ammonia and green hydrogen in Iceland, Green Fuel has also secured a letter of intent to operate at Bakki Eco-Industrial Park in north-east Iceland.

Emmes, a global, full-service CRO, has formed a partnership with MedGenome aimed at accelerating breakthrough treatments, powered by human genomics, for rare disease patients. Some of the initial rare diseases that the partnership will address include haemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and muscular atrophies, and retinitis pigmentosa. Emmes has previously launched a new rare disease centre, blending its expertise in biostatistics, data management and clinical research with Orphan Reach’s rare disease patient and clinical trial experience. Emmes acquired UK-based Orphan Reach in May 2021.

The Board of Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) has announced a proposal to change its share structure to establish a single line of shares, which is simpler for investors to understand and value. The simplification is designed to strengthen Shell’s competitiveness and accelerate both shareholder distributions and the delivery of its strategy to become a net-zero emissions business. The company will also align its tax residence with its country of incorporation in the UK.

Specialty chemicals company Lanxess has put a new production line for the manufacture of water-based compounds into operation in Nantong, China. Lanxess produces polyurethanes and lubricants at the site. The urethane products include hot-cast prepolymers, which are components of specialty polyurethanes that are used primarily in the construction, mining, oil, gas, athletic equipment and electronics industries.

The Government of Canada has announced a CAN$39.8m investment to help BIOVECTRA build a state-of-the-art facility in Prince Edward Island and reconfigure its facilities in Nova Scotia. This will boost Canada’s domestic supply of vaccines and therapeutics. Once completed, the project will allow for production equivalent to 160m doses/year of mRNA vaccine. BIOVECTRA will maintain and create 675 full-time jobs in PEI and Nova Scotia.

Dicerna Pharmaceuticals has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Novo Nordisk under which Novo Nordisk will acquire Dicerna, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of investigational RNAi therapeutics, for $38.25/share in cash. This represents a total equity value of $3.3bn and a premium of 80% to Dicerna’s closing price on 17 November 2021.

French pharma multinational Sanofi has announced an equity investment of $180m and a new strategic collaboration with AI and precision medicine company Owkin. The arrangement covers discovery and development programmes in four exclusive types of cancer, with a total payment of $90m for three years, plus additional milestone-based payments.

Solenis, a leading global producer of specialty chemicals, has been acquired by Platinum Equity from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and BASF in a transaction worth $5.25bn. Both CD&R and BASF have fully exited Solenis. As part of the acquisition, Solenis has merged with Sigura Water, an existing Platinum Equity portfolio company, for a total combined transaction value of approximately $6.5bn.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is to spinout its consumer health business, creating a new publicly traded company. The new J&J would remain the world’s largest and most diverse healthcare company and continue its commitment to lead in global healthcare R&D and innovation.

Organon and Forendo Pharma have entered into a definitive agreement under which Organon will acquire Forendo, a clinical-stage drug development company focused on novel treatments in women’s health. The transaction includes a $75m upfront payment, assumption of approximately $9m of Forendo debt, payments upon the achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones of up to $270m and commercial milestone payments of up to $600m. The transaction was expected to close in December 2021.

American multinational GE has announced it plans to form three industry-leading, global public companies focused on the growth sectors of aviation, healthcare and energy. The company plans a tax-free spin-off of GE Healthcare in early 2023 in which GE expects to retain a 19.9% stake. It also plans to combine GE Renewable Energy, GE Power and GE Digital into one business, positioned to lead the energy transition, and then pursue a tax-free spin-off of this business in early 2024.

The University of Bath and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust are launching a new spin-out company to create a quick and simple test for diagnosing bacterial infections in wounds, based on technology developed at the university’s department of chemistry. SmartWound’s technology uses a colour-changing dye to diagnose bacterial infections from wound swab samples

Birmingham Biotech and the University of Birmingham have signed a licensing agreement to commercialise a novel anti-viral nasal spray that protects against Covid-19. The anti-viral spray is designed to work by encapsulating and deactivating the virus while it is still in the nose, preventing its wider uptake by the body. The licensing agreement gives Birmingham Biotech exclusive rights to market and sell the anti-viral nasal spray worldwide, except for India.

Roche and Novartis have agreed on a repurchase by Roche of the 53.3m Roche shares held by Novartis. The aggregate transaction value is approximately CHF19bn.

HitGen and Cambridge Molecular have announced an exclusive alliance, introducing DeepDELve 2 – Cambridge Molecular’s highly optimised DEL-specific deep learning system – as an addition to HitGen’s world-leading DEL discovery platform, with over 1 trillion drug-like small molecules.

Biopharma Dunad Therapeutics has announced a strategic collaboration and license agreement with Novartis to generate orally bioavailable covalent and protein degrading small molecule drugs. Novartis has an exclusive option to develop and commercialise products resulting from the research programmes directed against up to four drug targets. Under the terms of the agreement, Dunad will receive $24m in an upfront payment and equity investment, as well as significant research funding. Dunad will also be eligible for milestone payments that could aggregate to up to $1.3bn and royalties.

Lonza, a global manufacturing partner to the pharmaceutical, biotech and nutrition industries, is to acquire the service unit of Exosomics, a leading extracellular vesicles biotech. The agreement includes Exosomics’ service team, service assets and laboratories in Sienna, Italy. Financial details were not disclosed.

Global chemical company Scott has acquired an industrial unit on a 15-acre site in Mocksville, North Carolina, which, with further investment, will be developed into a state-of-the-art gelcoat and structural adhesives manufacturing facility.

Synthomer is acquiring the adhesive resins business of Eastman Chemical Company, for $1bn in cash. Eastman develops, manufactures and sells tackifying resins and additives for adhesive products, with a focus on markets such as hygiene, packaging and high-performance tyre additives.

Cambridge Enterprise-led Ceres Agri-Tech has spun out Cellexcel, which has developed a process to make water-resistant bio-composites from flax, suitable for automotive applications. Cell-excel was co-founded by C&I Highlights contributor G. Richard Stephenson from the University of East Anglia, UK, which is a partner of Ceres, together with four other UK universities and three agricultural research institutes.

Spanish manufacturer of fertiliser and industrial chemical products, Fertiberia plans to invest €1m in a fertiliser and ammonia plant in Norrbotten, Sweden.

An Ikarus C42 microlight aircraft completed a short flight powered by synthetic gasoline at Cotswold Airport in November 2021. Zero Petroleum’s synthetic UL91 fuel is manufactured by extracting hydrogen from water and carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Using energy generated from renewable sources like wind or solar, these are combined to create the synthetic fuel. This innovation has the potential to save 80-90% of carbon per flight.

Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors and UK green-tech company, Clean Planet Energy, have announced a joint venture to develop ecoPlants in key North American markets. The first Clean Planet USA ecoPlant is under development in Gibbstown, NJ, US, and will process 20,000t/year of non-recyclable waste plastics into ultra-clean fuels and oils, and circular naphtha to support the manufacture of new plastics.

Clariant has introduced two reactive emulsifiers, Emulsogen CPA 100XS and Emulsogen CPN100 XS, for polymeric binders, suitable for architectural coatings offering excellent water resistance and greater resistance to dirt pick-up and snail trails. The new emulsifiers are said to ‘anchor’ to pure acrylic or styrene acrylic binders to create stabilised, hydrophobic small-particle binders, preventing emulsifier migration.

Malema Sensors, producer of the Sumoflo single-use Coriolis flowmeters said to be critical for vaccine production, chose Solvay’s Ketaspire PEEK resin for the manufacture of the all-plastic wetted path sensors, described as the only such type of sensor available globally. The PEEK resin was chosen for its physical properties including a very high Young’s modulus and extremely low leachables, and its ability to withstand gamma sterilisation.

Merck KGaA has launched Ronacare Epintegrity, a plant and mineral based cosmetic ingredient developed specifically for ageing skin. Inspired by the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF), it is described as consisting of a mixture of hydrophilic amino acids as well as some components of NMF with a strong water-binding capacity to regulate skin hydration and delivers calcium to help skin cells bond together and seal spaces between them.

Xampla, a spin out from the University of Cambridge, has created fragrance microcapsules made from plants that biodegrade after use. Water-insoluble plant protein, derived from agricultural by-products, is assembled to mimic the structure of spider silk without the use of chemical additives (Nature Communications, 2021, 12, Article number: 3529).

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