Business digest

C&I Issue 5, 2021

Read time: 7 mins

Antibiotic Research UK has launched a £200,000 small research grants programme to tackle antibiotic resistance. The charity will be awarding one grant of up to £50,000 and six grants of up to £25,000 each. Funding can be spread over one, two or three years, and where possible award winners should provide matched funding.

Leiden, Netherlands has been chosen by US pharma major Bristol Myers Squibb as the site of its first cell therapy factory in Europe. BMS expects construction to start later in 2021. 

The Canadian government has introduced a bill to modernise the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, starting the first major update of the country’s toxic substances law in more than 20 years.

UK-headquartered carbon capture technology company Carbon Clean is collaborating with Swedish power-to-fuels developer Liquid Wind to deliver carbon neutral marine fuel. The Carbon Clean technology will capture biogenic CO2 emissions from a local industrial site, which will then be combined with renewable hydrogen to form eMethanol at Liquid Wind’s site in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. The partnership expects the facility will upcycle 70,000t of CO2 into 50,000t of eMethanol/year, starting in 2024.

UK-based pre-clinical discovery CRO Charnwood Molecular, is partnering with European private equity fund Synova, which has invested in the company to support its future growth, including the introduction of additional senior leadership team. In addition, the company has become the sole occupier of a three-storey, state-of-the-art laboratory facility at Charnwood Campus, Loughborough, which is a designated ‘Life Sciences Opportunity Zone’.

US biopharmaceuticals company Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the Swiss-American biotechnology company CRISPR Therapeutics have amended their collaboration agreement to include the development, manufacture, and commercialisation of CTX001, an investigational gene editing therapy for sickle cell disease and transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia. CRISPR will receive an upfront payment of $900m, with the potential for an additional $200m payment upon the first regulatory approval of CTX001.

A fuel cell system based on high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) technology from Danish company Blue World Technologies is being constructed for testing at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg, Denmark. The installation, which will use methanol as fuel, will explore the technology’s potential as a source of marine auxiliary power.

A 1.5 MWh pilot plant is being built at Cranfield University, UK, to test a hydrogen production technology developed by US-based R&D organisation GTI. The HyPER project (bulk hydrogen production by sorbent enhanced steam reforming) is an international collaboration led by Cranfield with £7.4m funding from the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s. The project also involves low-carbon technology company Doosan Babcock.

UK-headquartered scientific informatics software and services company Dotmatics has been selected by French speciality materials company Arkema as its informatics partner in an R&D digitalisation project. Implementing Dotmatics’ unified electronic laboratory notebook across Arkema’s research sites in France, the agreement will run over five years.

The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) third Integrated regulatory strategy report identifies 290 chemicals from the 2020 registered chemicals as candidates for further regulatory risk management at EU level. Most of these will require more data to be generated and confirmation of hazard before any actions can start.

German speciality chemicals company Evonik is collaborating with IBM Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to explore potential industrial application of artificial intelligence (AI). This project extends Evonik’s collaboration with IBM, which focuses on digitisation and the company will also become a member of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

German drug discovery company Evotec has started construction of a biologics manufacturing facility at its Campus Curie in Toulouse, France. Meanwhile, the construction of Evotec’s first biologics manufacturing facility in Redmond, Washington, US, is on schedule and will be fully operational in Q2 2021.

Finnish companies Finnfoam, Brightplus, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Nordic Soya are developing a process to produce compostable bioplastic from food and feed production side streams such as soy. A biopolymer plant will be built in Uusikaupunki, Finland, in which bioplastic production will be piloted on an industrial scale. The research project was partly funded by Business Finland.

Received by Swiss pharmaceutical company Bioversys from the European Investment Bank to support the development of new antibiotics. The monies come under a venture debt loan financed under the Infectious Diseases Finance Facility set up as part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme for 2014-2020.

Awarded to UK biotechnology company Phico Therapeutics from global non-profit partnership Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) to develop engineered phage technology as the basis of a new generation of antibiotics. The funding, which comes from various international bodies including the Wellcome Trust in the UK, will support the progression of Phico’s lead candidate through clinical trials with $5.3m available immediately and a further $12.9m contingent on reaching specific project milestones.

Investment over five years by French pharma major Sanofi to create a vaccine production centre in Singapore. In partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board, the site will supply the Asian region and complement existing manufacturing capacities in Europe and North America.

Cash price to be paid by US laboratory equipment provider Thermo Fisher Scientific to acquire US CRO Pharmaceutical Product Development. Thermo Fisher will assume approximately $3.5bn of net debt, which represents a premium of approximately 24% to the unaffected closing price of PPD’s common stock.

Danish catalysis company Haldor Topsøe has signed a contract with international petroleum service company Tidewater to deliver Topsøe’s proprietary technology in Canada. The technology will produce 3000 barrels/day of renewable diesel, subject to receipt of Tidewater’s final investment decision.

UK multinational Ineos’ manufacturing sites in Texas and California in the US have been awarded ISCC Plus certification from International Sustainability & Carbon Certification to produce ethylene, propylene, HDPE and polypropylene. Both sites use Ineos’ advanced recycling technology, which converts waste plastic, destined for a landfill, into a liquid raw material for use in plastic production.

The International Weed Genomics Consortium has launched a project to develop genomic tools that will improve the management of the most intractable species of weeds worldwide. The project, led by scientists at Colorado State University, US, is supported by $1.5m in industry sponsorships and matching funds from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, a research and funding organisation established by the US Department of Agriculture.

US biopharma manufacturing and technology company Resilience, headquartered in San Diego and Boston, has acquired Florida-headquartered Ology Bioservices, which focuses on biologic drugs manufacturing from early stage through commercial products.

UK health research foundation Wellcome Trust is funding UK-based biotechnology company Oxitec to the tune of $6.8m to scale-up its proprietary technology, which works against yellow fever diseases. The funding will make the technology accessible to low-income communities worldwide suffering from dengue, Zika, and chikungunya.

French pharma major Sanofi has acquired US biotech company Tidal Therapeutics for an upfront payment of $160m and up to $310m upon achievement of certain milestones. Based at LabCentral in Cambridge, MA, Tidal has developed an mRNA-based approach for in vivo reprogramming of immune cells.

German science and technology company Merck KgaA is investing €20m to expand R&D and manufacturing capabilities at its site in Shizuoka, Japan. The investment, which is focused on electronic materials, is scheduled to be completed by January 2022. In addition, Merck has extended its existing research collaboration with the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, by another five years. Sustainability will be at the heart of the latest collaboration.

US oil and energy company Nacero has licensed Danish catalysis company Haldor Topsøe’s proprietary technology for its multi-billion dollar natural-gas-to-gasoline facility in Penwell, Texas. The facility will produce 100,000 barrels/day of cleaner gasoline from low-cost natural gas, captured bio-methane from farms and landfills, and mitigated flared gas from the Permian basin.

German international pharma and laboratory equipment supplier Sartorius is opening a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Havant, Hampshire, UK. The 58,000ft2 facility will accelerate the production of downstream processing equipment, including chromatography technologies and time- and cost-saving tangential flow filtration.

Netherlands-based Stamicarbon, the licensing and IP arm of the Italian engineering group Maire Tecnimont, is revamping one of the urea melt plants of Abu Qir Fertilizers in Alexandria, Egypt. Stamicarbon will deliver the license and the process design package for the revamped plant, which is expected to be operational in 2025.

The collaboration between Swiss multinational speciality chemicals company Clariant and Indonesian oil and gas corporation Pertamina, which started in 2018, has confirmed that Clariant’s sunliquid technology can successfully convert Indonesia’s fruit and palm feedstocks into cellulosic ethanol. The results support Pertamina’s future investment in commercial-scale advanced biofuel production plants.

Clariant and Polygal, a specialist in plant-derived hydrocolloids, are collaborating in the development of natural rheology modifiers for personal care applications. The first product, Plantasens Biogum Tara is said to thicken skincare formulations quickly at lower dosage concentrations than other natural modifiers such as xantham gum, while maintaining formulation stability over a wide pH range. It has a 100% Renewable Carbon Index and is readily biodegradable.

Polyray (Xiamen Hongtai Optical) has chosen Sabic’s Lexan polycarbonate as a certifiable feedstock for the BioPC lenses of several eyewear applications including sunglasses, safety glasses and sports goggles. Lexan is part of Sabic’s Trucircle portfolio and offers a reduction in carbon footprint of up to 61% and fossil depletion reduction of up to 35%. Polyray claims to be the first in the lens industry to offer a renewable polycarbonate lens and is the first ISCC Plus certified lens supplier.

Biotalys, a Belgian agtech company spun out of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), has submitted its first protein-based biofungicide, Evoca for EU approval after the completion of regulatory studies and a global field development programme for the control of powdery mildew and Botrytis cinerea in fruit and vegetable crops such as grapes and strawberries. Evoca has been developed using the company’s Agrobody technology.

German start-up Cadios has developed what is claimed to be the first reusable lid for coffee cups and mugs, the conically shaped Udo, produced using halogen-free thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) Thermolast K, a translucent material supplied by Kraiburg. The TPE has a soft-touch surface and can be custom-coloured and incorporate logos produced using laser technology. The compound can be returned to the production cycle through in-process recycling.

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