Business digest

C&I Issue 3, 2023

Read time: 5 mins

UK speciality chemicals and sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey and BP have announced that their co-developed Fischer Tropsch CANS technology has been selected by Strategic Biofuels to produce the world’s lowest carbon-footprint liquid fuel at the company’s Louisiana Green Fuels project. The plant plans to convert 1m t of forestry waste feedstock into cleaner-burning renewable diesel and is projected to produce 31.8m gallons of biofuels/year once in operation. The aim is to increase production to over 165m gallons/year of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuels over 10 to 12 years.

UK multinational consumer goods company Unilever is joining a new global partnership of cosmetics manufacturers and suppliers, industry associations and animal protection organisations to form the International Collaboration on Cosmetics Safety. This coalition aims to support innovation in animal-free cosmetics, personal care products and ingredients by funding scientific evaluation of new safety assessment approaches. It will share the results of these activities with cosmetics and chemical regulators and fund education and training to help build confidence in animal-free safety science.

German chemical major BASF and US food corporation Cargill are expanding their cooperation in feed enzymes development and distribution in the US. By combining the enzyme research and development strengths of BASF with Cargill’s know-how in application and market reach, the partners will form a joint pipeline for animal protein producers by enhancing the development of new enzyme technologies and applications.

Newly launched US biotech Aera Therapeutics has raised $193m in combined Series A and B financings. Aera works to unlock the potential of genetic medicines across a wide range of modalities and therapeutic areas. Its proprietary protein nanoparticle (PNP) genetic medicine delivery platform leverages the discovery of endogenous, human proteins derived from retroelements that can self-assemble to form capsid-like structures and which can package and transfer nucleic acid cargo. This platform combines the benefits of an endogenous, self-assembling system with the engineerability of a protein-based system and has the potential to enable the delivery of various genetic medicine modalities.

German specialty coatings and chemicals company Evonik is contributing its expertise in plastics and additives to a recycling project. A consortium of 19 industrial companies and research institutes, which as well as Evonik includes the BMW Group, Thyssenkrupp, the Fraunhofer Institute and the Technical University of Munich, has set itself the goal of developing new processes for using sustainable materials for circular automotive production. The project, which is funded for three years by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, was launched at the end of 2022.

US pharma Charles River Laboratories International has announced a multi-programme agreement with Pioneering Medicines, a strategic initiative of US life sciences venture capital company Flagship Pioneering. The agreement gives Pioneering Medicines access to Logica, an AI-powered drug solution that translates biological insights into optimised preclinical assets by leveraging US human-data company Valo Health’s AI-powered Opal computational platform and Charles River’s preclinical expertise. Through the agreement, Pioneering Medicines will deploy Logica across a portfolio of targets with the aim of creating optimised small molecules that lead to novel therapies for unmet medical needs.

Finnish oil refiner Neste has established an Innovation Center in Singapore to strengthen its R&D capabilities. The facility will focus on research around raw materials and pre-treatment processes. Meanwhile, in Spain, Neste is investigating the potential of an algae pilot production facility to develop and demonstrate algae cultivation and processing. The project is currently in the planning phase with no final investment decision made.

Lonza, a Swiss multinational manufacturer supplying the pharma, biotechnology and nutrition sectors, has completed the expansion of its bioconjugation facility in Visp, Switzerland. The expansion includes two manufacturing suites and supporting infrastructure.

German science and technology company Merck KGaA has broken ground in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for a new production facility in its Semiconductor Solutions business. From 2025 the site will produce specialty gases and semiconductor materials for thin-film and patterning solutions and is part of a programme of investment of at least €3bn.

Lotte Ineos Chemical, a Korea-based venture between petrochemical major Ineos and South Korean conglomerate Lotte, has announced plans to increase VAM production capacity from 450,000t to 700,000t. Vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) is a precursor to polyvinyl acetate that is widely used in food packaging, solar panels, windscreens, polarising films, adhesives and paints. In recent years VAM demand has increased significantly to meet demand for global solar power generation technology.

Sunderland City Council in the UK has given Norwegian technology-based recycling company Quantafuel permission for a new plastic-to-liquid plant to be built at the Port of Sunderland. The plant will take mixed plastic waste from across the north of England that would otherwise have been incinerated or disposed of in landfill, reducing CO2 emissions by around 70% compared with incineration.

French energy company TotalEnergies has joined NEXTLOOPP, the 47th member of an initiative to bring together companies from the plastics value chain that aims to create food-grade recycled polymer from advanced mechanical recycling. The project deploys pioneering technology to sort food-grade polypropylene efficiently and cost-effectively from post-consumer material and then decontaminate the polymer to comply with stringent food-grade standards.

UK carbon-capture technology company Carbon Clean has announced that it will deliver carbon-capture equipment for Danish power company Ørsted’s FlagshipONE facility – Europe’s largest green methanol project, based in Sweden. The site will produce around 50,000t of e-methanol/year to help decarbonise the world’s shipping industry, which accounts for 3% of global carbon emissions. The equipment will capture 70,000t of CO2/year, which will be combined with renewable hydrogen to produce e-methanol.

A new business programme designed to support biotechnology start-ups in the north-west of England has launched in Daresbury. The Biotech Business Incubation Centre (Bio BIC) is a collaboration between two Council’s operating within UK Research and Innovation: the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The Chemical Business Association (CBA), which represents the UK chemical supply chain, has announced a partnership with Cogent Skills, a skills provider for the science and technology sector. The partnership will provide CBA members with access to a range of skills and services, including policy support, apprenticeship provision and careers outreach training. Research from Cogent Skills has highlighted the decline in new apprenticeships across the chemical sector, particularly involving SMEs, and since many CBA members are SMEs, this new partnership will prove valuable.

Estonian biopharma Icosagen has reached an €18m financing agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) – backed by the InvestEU programme – to strengthen its drug discovery, development and production services. The funds are part of Icosagen’s €40m investment to increase its contract research and development capabilities as well as a new current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) facility to produce innovative drugs for clinical trials.

The Canadian Government, through its Global Innovation Clusters programme, has announced funding of up to Can$150m for the Protein Industries Cluster. This will facilitate investment in Canada’s plant-based food and feed ecosystem, as well as providing funding for the creation of new products and services, while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production and food processing.

SK bioscience, a South Korean vaccine and biotech, has announced an investment of $261m to establish the Songdo Global Research & Process Development Center. The facility will work from basic research to commercial manufacturing, and ultimately create a global vaccine ecosystem to pre-emptively respond to new infectious diseases.

US biologics CDMO Bionova Scientific, part of the Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei Group, has commissioned a third facility in Fremont, California, which will quadruple its manufacturing capacity and service capabilities.

British speciality chemicals company Croda International has agreed to acquire Solus Biotech, a Korean company that develops pharmaceutical ingredients in the biotechnological sector, for £232m on a debt-free, cash-free basis. The acquisition provides access to Solus’ existing biotech-derived ceramide and phospholipid technologies, and its emerging capabilities in natural retinol.

German biotech BioNTech has completed the company’s first proprietary plasmid DNA manufacturing facility in Marburg, Germany. Plasmid DNA is an important starting material for the manufacture of mRNA-based vaccines and therapies, as well as cell therapies. With the new facility, BioNTech plans to independently produce plasmid DNA for clinical product candidates and commercial products for tackling cancer and infectious diseases. BioNTech also expects the new facility to enable faster production cycles and shorter delivery times for plasmid DNA for a number of clinical product candidates and commercial products.

The UK Government has struck a deal for a 10-year-partnership with US pharma and biotech Moderna in a major boost for UK vaccines and research. Moderna will invest in mRNA R&D in the UK and build a state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing centre creating more than 150 highly skilled jobs. The Centre will have the capacity to produce up to 250m vaccines/year in the event of a pandemic, so that NHS patients will have access to a UK-made supply of COVID-19 jabs as well as cutting-edge vaccines developed for other respiratory diseases, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Saudi chemical manufacturing company SABIC is launching two new polycarbonate copolymer resins offering a combination of robust chemical and impact resistance. These new materials, LNP ELCRES CRX1314TW or its bio-based equivalent CRX1314BTW, offer thin-wall transparency, dimensional stability and processability. In device applications such as clear covers, screens and display lenses, the new materials can overcome key drawbacks of incumbent PC resins and co-polyester resins when exposed to disinfectants or aggressive chemicals.

TotalEnergies and US corporation Ecolab, which develops and offers services, technology and systems that specialise in the treatment, purification and cleaning of water, have partnered to launch plastic packaging incorporating recycled material that will contribute to promoting circularity in heavy-use packaging markets. The range uses TotalEnergies rPE6314 from the RE:use range which combines post-consumer recycled plastic with high-performing booster resins to enable circularity while maintaining the same performances, thus providing sustainable solutions for bottles and medium-size containers, for both solids and liquids.

US analytical laboratory instrument manufacturer Thermo Fisher Scientific is working with British-Swedish pharma and biotech AstraZeneca to develop a solid tissue and blood-based companion diagnostic (CDx) test for Tagrisso (osimertinib). The CDx will help identify patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who may be eligible for treatment with Tagrisso by identifying tumours that exhibit epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) alterations, including exon 21 L858R mutations, exon 19 deletions or T790M mutations.

German chemical companies Covestro and Lanxess are cooperating in the production of energy-intensive basic chemicals at their Lower Rhine sites in Germany to make them more climate friendly. Lanxess sources chlorine, caustic soda and hydrogen from the ISCC PLUS-certified sites of Covestro in Leverkusen and Krefeld-Uerdingen. Covestro is now manufacturing around one-third of the volume of products it supplies to Lanxess using energy certified as being from hydropower.

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