Business digest

C&I Issue 5, 2023

Read time: 7 mins

US supplier of scientific instrumentation, consumables and software services Thermo Fisher Scientific and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have agreed to work together to accelerate advanced cell therapies for difficult-to-treat conditions, including cancer, rare diseases and other illnesses. The collaboration will be based at a newly opened manufacturing facility adjacent to the UCSF Medical Center on the Mission Bay campus. The initial focus will be on treatments for glioblastoma, multiple myeloma, and other cancers using updated approaches to CAR-T and CRISPR technologies.

South Korean chemical company LG Chem has announced that it will jointly develop technology to create 100% bio-based plastic from renewable sources of carbohydrates such as corn, with US renewable fuel company Gevo. The ethanol-to-olefins source technology required for propylene production from ethanol will be provided by Gevo, and together with Gevo, LG Chem will verify and advance the technology through technical scale-up, pilot research and commercialisation.

UNDBIO, a South Korean pharma company that provides diabetic care products, has secured a lease with West Virginia University to build an insulin manufacturing facility in Morgantown, West Virginia, US. The company will create 200 jobs within the first three years and invest $100m in phase one of the project.

UK pharma and biotech GSK has acquired BELLUS, a Canadian late-stage biopharma that works with patients suffering from refractory chronic cough for £1.6bn. The acquisition provides GSK access to camlipixant, a potential best-in-class and highly selective P2X3 antagonist currently in phase III development for the first-line treatment of adult patients with RCC.

Austrian start-up Proxygen has announced a multi-year research collaboration and license agreement with Merck & Co through its subsidiary MSD to jointly identify and develop molecular glue degraders against multiple therapeutic targets. Proxygen has developed a versatile, proprietary discovery engine supporting the specific and unbiased identification of molecular glue degraders against difficult-to-drug or completely undruggable targets at large scale.

Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant has opened its new CHF80m CATOFIN catalyst production site in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China. CATOFIN is a high-yield propane dehydrogenation catalyst used in the production of olefins such as propylene.

Japanese company Sumitomo Pharma is merging seven units – Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Sumitomo Pharma America Holdings, Sumitomo Pharma Oncology, Sumitovant Biopharma, Myovant Sciences, Urovant Sciences and Enzyvant Therapeutics – into one company: Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. The resultant company will then be renamed Sumitomo Pharma America.

A team of researchers from Rhodium Scientific, which provides support services to life science companies and academic researchers pioneering discoveries in space, and the University of Florida are testing the concept of biomanufacturing in microgravity. The research team is leveraging the International Space Station National Laboratory, with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Their work will examine how gravity affects the production of therapeutics and nutrients from bacteria and yeast.

Catalent, a US-based provider of delivery technologies, drug manufacturing, biologics, gene therapies and consumer health products, has begun construction of a $20m expansion project at its clinical supply facility in Schorndorf, Germany. The project will increase the site’s capacity for temperature-controlled storage and handling of clinical trial supply materials, and accommodate the installation of a new, fully automatic bottle filling line.

The UK Government has announced a £30m boost for three UK companies working to capture and store renewable energy. Synchrostor will receive £9.4m to build a pumped thermal energy storage grid-connected demonstration plant operating at 1MW, with the ability to charge and discharge for a period of 10 hours, longer than current battery technology. Invinity Energy (UK) will receive £11m to develop and manufacture their 7MW, 30MWh 4-hour vanadium flow battery. Cheesecake Energy will receive £9.4m to test its FlexiTanker technology which stores electricity using a combination of thermal and compressed air energy storage.

Merck KGaA has announced expansion plans at its semiconductor manufacturing site in Hometown, Pennsylvania, US. This expansion is part of Merck’s growth programme announced by its electronics business sector in late 2021, which aims to invest over €3bn in innovation and capacity expansion projects by 2025. The roughly €300m investment in the Hometown site will further develop the world’s largest integrated specialty gases facility.

German pharma and biotech Bayer is investing €60m in its corn seed production facility in Pochuiky, Ukraine. The investment aims to both strengthen Bayer’s Crop Science business and contribute to rebuilding Ukraine’s economy.

1m t
INEOS Phenol, the Germany-based subsidiary of UK chemicals multinational INEOS has completed the acquisition of Mitsui Phenols Singapore from Japanese manufacturer Mitsui Chemicals for $330m. The business has a turnover of $750m and produces over 1m t of product each year, including cumene (410ktpa), phenol (310ktpa), acetone (185ktpa) alpha-methylstyrene (20ktpa) and bisphenol A (150ktpa).

Swedish sustainable waste management and recycling company Stena Recycling has opened a $24m battery-recycling plant in the south of Sweden. It is one of the first industry-scale battery-recycling facilities in Europe. Its advanced recycling process makes it possible to recycle 95% of an electric vehicle battery. The plant has an initial yearly recycling capacity of 10,000t and will handle battery material collected from Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Finland, Norway, Germany and Italy.

Eight UK research-intensive universities have established Midlands Mindforge, a new investment company to accelerate the commercialisation of university spinouts and early-stage IP-rich businesses in the region. The company has been co-founded by Aston University, University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, Keele University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Nottingham and University of Warwick. Midlands Mindforge plans to raise up to £250m from corporate partners, institutional investors and qualifying individuals, and address the significant funding deficit for early-stage technology businesses in the region.

French biotech Enalees, which develops rapid molecular diagnostic tests for the veterinary profession, has opened its new proteomics development and production laboratory at the Genopole cluster site in Paris. The facility will produce recombinant proteins and strengthen R&D for its rapid diagnostic kits to support veterinary professionals.

Hainan Baling Chemical New Material, a subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), has launched production at its $280m styrene-butadiene copolymer site in Hainan, China. The plant is designed for annual production of 170,000t and has 13 units, including refining, polymerisation, coalescence, recycling, auxiliaries preparation and post-treatment.

Swiss manufacturer of flavours, fragrances and active cosmetic ingredients Givaudan has reached an agreement to acquire a portfolio of major cosmetic ingredients from US biotech Amyris, including the emollient Neossance Squalane, the plant-based silicone alternative Neossance Hemisqualane and the sustainable sun protector CleanScreen. Givaudan and Amyris have also signed a long-term partnership agreement, under which Amyris will continue to manufacture ingredients for Givaudan to use in cosmetics, as well as provide access to their innovation capabilities.

UK renewable energy company ATOME Energy has signed an agreement with the Itaipu Binational Technology Park in Paraguay to invest in green hydrogen and ammonia production facilities. The project is based around easy access to clean energy sources using power from hydroelectric dams. Production will start with an initial 50MW unit by the end of 2024, with plans for a gradual increase in production up to 250MW. ATOME Energy will simultaneously implement a similar project in Iceland, where it also has access to clean energy sources.

UK Research and Innovation has announced investment of £24m to support two initiatives to help the UK prepare for pandemics and epidemics and deliver secure food supplies. Co-led by University College London and the University of Oxford, the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub aims to make the UK the global centre for vaccine discovery, development and manufacture. It will save lives by enabling rapid rollout of highly effective new vaccines for frontline use. The Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub based at the University of Bath aims to transform food production, transitioning to an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable model in which novel manufacturing systems complement traditional food production.

Belgian drug discovery company Confo Therapeutics has entered a collaboration agreement with Japanese pharma Daiichi Sankyo for the discovery and development of small molecule agonists against an undisclosed target associated with central nervous system diseases. Confo will lead the discovery process by deploying its G-protein coupled receptors platform.

German specialty chemicals company Evonik has begun construction of a $220m production facility for pharmaceutical specialty lipids in Lafayette, Indiana, US. The new facility is expected to secure the industry’s access to critical excipients needed for mRNA vaccines and other nucleic acid therapies. The plant is scheduled to go onstream in 2025.

UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey has extended its partnership with German clean energy company SFC Energy and will now develop and supply proton exchange membrane components to support SFC Energy’s growth in hydrogen fuel cells. This is in addition to Johnson Matthey’s long-term SFC collaboration, centred around the supply of components for direct methanol fuel cell systems.

Construction has started on a major integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in the city of Panjin, in China’s Liaoning Province. The complex is a joint venture between Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco (30%), Chinese defence manufacturer NORINCO Group (51%) and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group (19%). Aramco is expected to supply up to 210,000bbl/day of crude oil feedstock to the facility, which is expected to be fully operational by 2026.

Dutch paints and coatings company AkzoNobel has launched a new generation of fillers for the automotive body shop sector. Known as Sikkens Autosurfacer Optima and Lesonal 2K Ultimate Filler, AkzoNobel claims they offer up to 80% shorter process times when drying with infrared, thereby lowering energy costs by up to 85%.

Canadian biotech Aspect Biosystems and Danish pharma Novo Nordisk have announced a collaboration and licence agreement to develop bio-printed tissue therapeutics designed to replace, repair or supplement biological functions inside the body. The aim is to deliver disease-modifying treatments for diabetes and obesity. The collaboration will leverage Aspect’s proprietary bioprinting technology and Novo Nordisk’s stem cell differentiation technology, cell therapy development and manufacturing experience.

UK pharma and biotech GSK and US biotech Scynexis have entered into an exclusive licence agreement for Brexafemme (ibrexafungerp tablets), a US FDA-approved antifungal for the treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and for reduction in the incidence of recurrent VVC (RVVC). This exclusive licence agreement gives GSK rights to commercialise Brexafemme for VVC and RVVC while continuing to develop ibrexafungerp, which is in phase III clinical trials for the potential treatment of invasive candidiasis, a life-threatening fungal infection.

Three Dutch companies, Royal FrieslandCampina (dairy products), DSM (nutrition, health and bioscience) and Agrifirm (feed supplier) have successfully incorporated Bovaer, a feed supplement that reduces enteric methane emissions, into the regular farming activities of 158 Dutch dairy farms. The six-month program was the world’s first large-scale on-farm use of the methane-reducing feed additive for cattle and confirmed that Bovaer can easily be introduced at scale without affecting animal health, milk production or milk composition.

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