Business digest

C&I Issue 9, 2023

The UK’s Green Lithium company has received planning permission for its large-scale lithium refinery at PD Ports in Teesside, UK. The facility will provide support to the automotive and battery manufacturing industries in the UK and the EU.

German specialty coatings and chemicals company Evonik has signed an agreement to scale up and produce custom catalysts for the US subsidiary of German chemicals company Röhm at its new methyl methacrylate production plant in Bay City, Texas, US, which is due to be opened in 2024. Methacrylate monomers and their derivatives are important precursors used in the automotive, electronic, medical and construction industries.

Danish pharma Novo Nordisk has acquired privately owned Canadian biotech Inversago Pharma for up to $1.075bn, providing certain development and commercial milestones are achieved. Inversago is a developer of CB1 receptor-based therapies for the potential treatment of obesity, diabetes and complications associated with metabolic disorders. CB1 plays an important role in appetite regulation and other cardiometabolic pathways.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $34m to 19 industry- and university-led research projects that will advance technology solutions to make clean hydrogen a more available and affordable fuel for electricity generation, industrial decarbonisation and transportation. Electricity generated from clean hydrogen will help reach the Administration’s goals of achieving a zero-carbon US power sector by 2035 and net zero by 2050.

The DOE has also announced up to $1.2bn to advance the development of two commercial-scale direct air capture facilities in Texas and Louisiana. These projects – the first of this scale in the US – represent the initial selections from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs programme, which aims to kickstart a nationwide network of large-scale carbon removal sites to address legacy CO2 pollution and complement rapid emissions reductions. These will be the world’s largest investment in engineered carbon removal. Each Hub will eventually remove more than 250 times more carbon dioxide than the largest DAC facility currently operating.

German pharma and biotech Bayer has increased its commitment to regenerative agriculture with a €220m investment in R&D at its Monheim site. This is Bayer’s largest single investment in its crop protection business in Germany since the founding of the Monheim campus in 1979. The new Product Safety complex will focus on developing the next generation of sustainable chemicals and enhancing the environmental and human safety of crop protection.

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, a Japanese CDMO for biologics, vaccines, advanced therapies and oncolytic viruses, has unveiled a new Strategic Business Unit (SBU) structure to provide tailored support to large- and small-scale biopharmaceutical customers. The Large-Scale SBU is designed to meet the needs of clients who need access to high-volume cell culture production using multiples of 20,000L bioreactors. The Small-Scale SBU provides support for clients as they navigate the regulatory matrix of pre-clinical, early clinical Phase 1 and 2, late clinical Phase 3, as well as those progressing to regulatory approval and commercial production. The production volume uses bioreactors ranging from 200 to 2000L as well as single-use manufacturing systems.

The European Commission has approved a €246m Dutch scheme to support the production of renewable hydrogen with at least 60MW of electrolysis capacity.

US biopharma and cell therapy developer Bristol Myers Squibb has joined the Technology Adoption Partnership program of US IDMO (integrated development and manufacturing organisation) Cellares, which provides dedicated clinical and industrial-scale cell therapy manufacturing. BMS will enter into a proof-of-concept transfer process for the manufacture of one of its CAR-T cell therapies, using Cellares’ automated manufacturing platform, the ‘Cell Shuttle’.

French engineering and technology company for the energy industry and chemicals sector Technip Energies and Canadian clean tech company Enerkem have signed an MoU for a collaboration agreement aimed at accelerating the deployment of Enerkem’s technology platform for biofuels and circular chemical products from non-recyclable waste materials.

UK scientists now have access to the world’s largest research collaboration programme, Horizon Europe, following the recent deal with the EU. UK researchers can apply for grants participating as a fully associated member for the remaining life of the programme to 2027 (See p5).

UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey has signed an investment agreement with the Jiading District in Shanghai to help accelerate the hydrogen economy in China by building a new catalyst-coated membrane production facility for multiple proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell applications and PEM electrolysers. The facility will have an initial capacity of up to 5GW in the Jiading hydrogen industrial zone and is due to be operational in 2025.

Swiss pharma Novartis has completed its acquisition of Chinook Therapeutics, a US biopharma focused on the discovery, development and commercialisation of precision medicines for kidney diseases, in a transaction valued at up to $3.5bn. Chinook’s pipeline includes two late-stage assets in clinical development to treat Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy (IgAN), atrasentan and zigakibart (BION-1301), as well as earlier-stage R&D programs.

UK consulting and engineering company Wood is working with the UK’s National Gas company to ensure the gas transmission system is secure and sustainable. National Gas operates the entire gas transmission system and has appointed Wood to digitally upgrade 7600km of essential pipelines, compressor stations and terminals. Through a five-year framework agreement, Wood will apply digital solutions to transform National Gas infrastructure to modern, cyber-secure technology across their entire network of critical assets.

Australian national science agency CSIRO and corporate advisor RFC Ambrian have co-founded Hadean Energy to commercialise cutting-edge technology that can produce hydrogen with 30% less electricity and help to decarbonise heavy industry. CSIRO will trial the technology at BlueScope’s Port Kembla Steelworks to demonstrate CSIRO’s tubular solid-oxide electrolysis technology at pilot scale in an industrial environment.

US biopharma Gilead Sciences and US biotech Tentarix Biotherapeutics have established three multi-year collaborations leveraging Tentarix’s proprietary Tentacles platform to discover and develop multi-functional, conditional protein therapeutics for oncology and inflammatory diseases. These molecules have the potential to conditionally target immune cells related to disease pathways without activating other immune cells that may create adverse events.

German chemicals company BASF is to double its production capacity for water-soluble dispersants based on acrylic acid at its Dilovasi, Turkey location with a new production plant. This investment aims to support BASF’s customers in the detergent, cleaning and chemical processing industry across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The additional capacities are expected to be fully operational by the third quarter of 2023.

UK biotech Astex Pharmaceuticals, which discovers and develops novel small molecule therapeutics for oncology and diseases of the central nervous system, has entered an exclusive worldwide research collaboration and licence agreement with US pharma MSD (the US arm of German multinational science and technology company Merck KGaA). The goal is to identify small molecule candidates with activity towards a tumour suppressor protein for the treatment of cancer.

At the Australian Research Council (ARC), Chief Research Officer Professor Christina Twomey has launched the ARC Research Hub for Functional and Sustainable Fibres. Through collaboration with 16 domestic and international partners, the Hub will conduct research across sustainability, circular economies and functionality to develop materials with enhanced functionality, meeting consumer and industrial demand for advanced fibre capabilities including recycling and re-purposing textile waste.

Dutch paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel has completed the acquisition of the Chinese decorative paints business of US paints company Sherwin-Williams. The business has an annual revenue of approximately €100m.

US manufacturing company National Resilience, which develops technology-focused biomanufacturing to broaden access to complex medicines, and Saudi Arabian biopharma Lifera are to develop biopharma manufacturing capacity in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The joint venture will be focused on sterile injectables and other parenteral products to meet local and regional demand. The facility will support the aseptic filling of inactivated/bacterial vaccines, mRNA vaccines and therapeutics such as monoclonal antibodies, plasma-derived products and large molecules.

US materials science company Dow is collaborating with Procter & Gamble China to manufacture air capsule e-commerce packaging. The product offers a reduction of >40% in material weight compared to traditional corrugated parcel boxes, thus requiring only 25% of original trucking and 75% less warehouse space. It also enables recycling through an all-PE mono material structure.

US biopharma Poseida Therapeutics, a clinical-stage cell and gene therapy company advancing a new class of treatments for patients with cancer and rare diseases, has announced a $50m strategic investment by Japanese pharma Astellas.

US biotech Biogen has purchased US pharma Reata Pharmaceuticals for $172.50/share in cash, reflecting an enterprise value of approximately $7.3bn. Reata is developing therapeutics that regulate cellular metabolism and inflammation in serious neurologic diseases.

Intellegens, a UK company applying machine learning (ML) to accelerate innovation in R&D, has secured a £1.6m grant from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to apply ML in the emerging field of oligonucleotide therapies. Intellegens will work in collaboration with the Centre for Process Innovation, a British technology and innovation social enterprise, headquartered in Redcar, North East England. The two-year project will augment and validate the company’s ML technology – Alchemite.

Graphene Flagship, the European research initiative launched in 2013, has partnered with Italian automotive manufacturer Dallara Automobili to develop a graphene-enhanced, fire-resistant interior for the Dallara Stradale sports car. The vehicle was displayed at Graphene Week 2023 in Gothenburg, Sweden, 4-8 September.

Following a successful test of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Virgin Atlantic has set 28 November 2023 for the world’s first one-off 100% SAF flight using a Boeing 787 from London Heathrow to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. The SAF will be produced by blending hydroprocessed esters and fatty Acids (HEFA) and BioForm SAK produced using the BioForming S2A process developed by Virent and Johnson Matthey. Virent and BP Air will supply 60t of SAF for research, testing and the flight itself. Current regulations only allow 50% SAF blends in commercial jet engines. SAF is said to deliver up to 70% savings in CO2 emissions and fewer particulate emissions, compared with conventional jet fuel.

Solvay is supplying engineering plastics specialist AGru with Solef polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) for the production of ultra-pure water piping systems for the semiconductor industry. The Solef grades are based on 100% pure polymer feedstock without any added substances and deliver smooth surfaces that prevent biofilm buildup and bacterial growth.

Sabic has expanded its range of speciality materials for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) with the introduction of two new LNP SAT-KON compounds, WDF40RID and WDF40RI, suitable for ADAS radar absorbers for millimeter wave radar. The new materials provide a high dissipation factor for efficient absorption to minimise the noise that can interfere with the transmission of the main radar signal, in addition to controlled reflection.

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