Business digest

C&I Issue 2, 2023

Read time: 5 mins

German science and technology company Merck has announced a research collaboration and commercial licence agreement with US biotech Mersana Therapeutics to discover novel antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) using Mersana’s proprietary Immunosynthen STING-agonist ADC platform. The platform is designed to generate systemically administered ADCs that unlock the anti-tumour potential of innate immune stimulation.

WuXi STA, a pharma development subsidiary of Chinese pharma, biopharma and medical device company WuXi AppTec, has begun operations at its first drug product continuous manufacturing line for oral solids in Wuxi city, China. The new line will enable higher yields and shortened timelines to market.

US pharma and biotech Moderna, which focuses on messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines, and OriCiro Genomics, a Japanese company that provides cell-free DNA synthesis and amplification technologies, have entered into a definitive agreement through which Moderna will acquire OriCiro for $85m.

Saudi Arabian Oil Company Aramco and Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) have signed heads of agreement for a greenfield project in Gulei, Fujian Province in China, with plans to include a 320,000bbl/day refinery and 1.5m t/year petrochemical cracker complex. It is expected to commence operations by the end of 2025. Additionally, Aramco, Saudi chemical manufacturing company SABIC and Sinopec have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to study the economic and technical feasibility of developing a new petrochemical complex to be integrated with an existing refinery in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

The European Commission and New Zealand Government have concluded negotiations for association status of New Zealand to the Horizon Europe programme. Following signing of the Association Agreement, expected in 2023, researchers and organisations in New Zealand will be able to participate in Pillar II of the programme, which is primarily focused on shared global challenges, including climate, energy, industry and health. Participation will be on equal terms with entities from EU member states.

Nimble Therapeutics, a US biotech using its peptide discovery platform to identify medicines, has expanded its collaboration with a license agreement with US biotech Genentech, a member of the Swiss healthcare company Roche. Nimble will apply its platform against multiple targets, and Genentech and Roche will be responsible for preclinical and clinical development, and commercialisation of any resulting products.

Bruker, a US manufacturer of scientific instruments for molecular and materials research, and Swiss biotech Biognosys have announced a strategic partnership in which Bruker has made a majority-ownership investment in Biognosys.

German pharma and biotech Bayer and agricultural biotech Oerth Bio are collaborating to develop more sustainable crop-protection products. Oerth Bio’s targeted protein degraders offer the capacity for high-precision product development, low application rates and paths to overcome biological resistance with reduced environmental impact.

The national authorities of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have submitted a proposal to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to restrict per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) under REACH, the EU’s chemicals regulation. ECHA will publish the detailed proposal, one of the broadest in the EU’s history, on 7 February 2023. The restriction proposal comes after the five authorities found risks in the manufacture, placement on the market and use of PFASs that are not adequately controlled and need to be addressed throughout the EU and the European Economic Area.

UK industrial biotech specialist Ingenza is collaborating with US clinical-stage biopharma Amplifica Holdings Group to develop a treatment to address androgenic alopecia, a common form of hair loss in both men and women. The collaboration aims to advance the development of signalling molecules, which stimulate dormant hair follicle stem cells and results in the active regrowth of hairs, from proof of concept through toxicology and clinical trials. The project will use Ingenza’s microbial strain and mammalian-cell line development capabilities.

US pharma and biotech Pfizer has expanded its commitment to the company’s An Accord for a Healthier World programme. It is offering the full portfolio of medicines and vaccines for which it has global rights on a not-for-profit basis to 1.2bn people living in 45 lower-income countries, and thereby offering them improved healthcare access.

The UK Government has awarded five projects a share of the £165m Advanced Fuels Fund. The successful projects include sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plants in Teesside, Immingham and Ellesmere Port, which will convert everyday household and commercial waste, such as black bin bags, into sustainable jet fuel. Building on the success of the green fuels, green skies programme, the five projects will produce over 300,000t/year of SAF.

The reported volume of chemicals exported from and imported to the EU under the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation significantly increased in 2021, due in large part to Brexit. Exports of benzene, which is used, for example, to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, dyes and rubber lubricants, increased by 143% to around 187,000t in 2021.

Italian ice cream packaging manufacturer Imballaggi Alimentari has launched its Remaxigel range of boxes made of German chemical company BASF’s Styropor Ccycled expanded polystyrene. It is manufactured with pyrolysis oil from recycled mixed plastic waste, which compared with conventional Styropor results in packaging that emits 50% less CO2 while offering the same quality and performance.

Italian energy company Eni and Italian energy infrastructure company Snam have signed an agreement to jointly develop and manage Phase 1 of the Ravenna Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project. This aims to capture 25,000t of CO2 emitted from Eni’s natural gas treatment plant in Casalborsetti, Ravenna. Once captured, the CO2 will be piped to the Porto Corsini Mare Ovest platform and injected into the depleted gas field offshore from Ravenna.

Ineos Enterprises, a part of UK chemicals company Ineos Group, has agreed to buy MBCC Group’s admixture business from Swiss specialty chemical company Sika. The admixture business employs more than 1600 people, produces and supplies a broad chemicals portfolio for concrete manufacturing and underground construction across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, with annual sales of around $1bn.

German biotech BioNTech has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Government to accelerate clinical trials for personalised mRNA immunotherapies with the aim of providing personalised cancer therapies for up to 10,000 patients by the end of 2030, either in clinical trials or as authorised treatments. This objective is part of a multi-year collaboration focused on three strategic pillars: cancer immunotherapies based on mRNA or other drug classes; infectious disease vaccines; and investments into expanding BioNTech’s footprint in the UK as one of the company’s key markets.

Chinese CRDMO WuXi Biologics has announced a licence agreement with UK pharma and biotech GSK. GSK will be granted an exclusive global license for the research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of a preclinical bispecific antibody that crosslinks tumour cells and T cells by targeting a tumour-associated antigen (TAA) on tumour cells and CD3 expression on T cells, plus up to three additional preclinical TCE antibodies currently at an earlier discovery stage.

US communications, electronics and life sciences company Agilent Technologies is investing $725m to double manufacturing capacity of therapeutic nucleic acids in response to rapid growth of the $1bn market and demand for the company’s active pharmaceutical ingredients (API).

A new Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate collaboration in the field of pandemic preparedness and to promote further cooperation between the University of Oxford and Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron, has been announced. Oxford and Diamond already have many strong links, but now intend to develop their collaborative work to address multiple aspects of anti-viral drug discovery, in particular: structure-based drug discovery, development of immuno-therapeutics and vaccine design.

Pfizer and US-UK CDMO Abzena have entered into an agreement whereby Pfizer will acquire Abzena’s manufacturing facility in Sanford, North Carolina, US. Upon completion of the construction, the facility will produce biologics drug substance and provide Pfizer with additional manufacturing capacity.

British-Swedish pharma and biotech AstraZeneca has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire CinCor Pharma, a US clinical-stage biopharma developing treatments for resistant and uncontrolled hypertension as well as chronic kidney disease. The acquisition will bolster AstraZeneca’s cardiorenal pipeline by adding CinCor’s candidate drug, baxdrostat (CIN-107), an aldosterone synthase inhibitor (ASI) for blood pressure lowering in treatment-resistant hypertension.

British oil and gas company BP has revealed plans to evaluate expansion of Germany’s green energy port in Wilhelmshaven with a new hydrogen hub. The plan is expected to include an ammonia cracker, which could provide up to 130,000t/year of low-carbon hydrogen from green ammonia, from 2028. Green ammonia – produced by combining nitrogen with hydrogen derived from the electrolysis of water using renewable energy sources – is expected to be shipped from BP green hydrogen projects around the world to Wilhelmshaven. The cracker converts the green ammonia into green hydrogen by splitting the larger molecule into its smaller nitrogen and hydrogen components, which can then be used directly.

German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel and Shell Chemical, the US-based arm of UK multinational oil and gas company Shell have agreed to a five-year collaboration to replace up to 200,000t of fossil feedstocks used in the manufacture of surfactants with feedstocks that are based on renewable raw materials. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 120,000t of CO2e (equivalent). The renewable-based surfactants, ingredients in cleaning products that help lather and lift dirt, will be used in Henkel’s laundry products, including many varieties of Persil and Purex brands.

French energy group TotalEnergies and German specialty chemicals company Lanxess are working together to produce biocircular styrene. Unlike conventional styrene, the raw material used by TotalEnergies is based on tall oil, which is derived from tree resin and is a by-product of pulp production. Lanxess uses the styrene to produce sustainable ion exchange resins, which are primarily used to treat wastewater and chemical process flows, as well as in the food industry.

Belgian chemical company Solvay is investing at its Livorno site in Italy to launch its first unit of circular highly dispersible silica, made with bio-based sodium silicate derived from rice husk ash. This process provides a circular solution by giving a second life to rice husk in a local value chain. Coupled with renewable energy at the plant, it will achieve a 50% reduction in CO2/t of silica.

Belgian textile company Devan Chemicals has launched Purissimo NTL, a biobased and biodegradable allergen control technology. It uses probiotic encapsulation technology and can be applied to textiles during the finishing stage of the manufacturing process. Purissimo NTL can be used on a wide range of textiles, such as mattresses, pillows, bedcovers and blankets, and also upholstered furniture, carpets, curtains and public transportation products.

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