Business digest

C&I Issue 1, 2024

US biopharmas Bristol Myers Squibb and Karuna Therapeutics have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Bristol Myers Squibb has agreed to acquire Karuna for $330/share in cash, for a total equity value of $14bn.

Danish energy-transition and carbon-emission-reduction technology company Topsoe has been selected by Essar Oil UK to be a technology licensor for its carbon capture facility, based in Stanlow, north-west England. Topsoe will deliver its SNOX technology for the removal of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, dust and other contaminants from the flue gas emitted at the Essar site.

Anglo-Swedish pharma and biotech AstraZeneca has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Chinese clinical-stage biopharma Gracell Biotechnologies, a developer of cell therapies for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. The deal’s upfront and potential contingent value payments represent a transaction value of approximately $1.2bn.

Alkermes, an Irish biopharma that focuses on developing medicines for psychiatric and neurological disorders, has agreed to sell its development and manufacturing facility in Athlone, Ireland, to Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk for $92.5m.

The Midwest Bioprocessing Center, a US producer of biobased chemicals for human health, nutrition and personal care, has been awarded a $1.8m grant from the US National Institutes of Health to develop technology that will allow the company to produce important deoxysugars for pharmaceutical drug discovery applications. These specialised sugars are often important structural components of bioactive natural products, such as antibiotics and anticancer therapeutics. They are also of increasing interest to drug discovery researchers who want to test the effect of altering sugar substituents on the therapeutics that they are developing. Deoxysugars are often difficult or impossible to synthesise using current chemical technologies.

Biosynth, a Swiss supplier of life sciences reagents, custom synthesis and manufacturing services to the life science industry, has acquired Swiss chemicals company VIO Chemicals. The acquisition gives Biosynth greater flexibility in complex chemical manufacturing, with increased expertise across carbohydrates, nucleosides, intermediates and specialty excipients.

The University of Cambridge has announced a partnership with AstraZeneca and the UK’s Medical Research Council to establish a new state-of-the-art functional genomics laboratory at the Milner Therapeutics Institute, based in Cambridge, UK. The laboratory will become part of the UK’s Human Functional Genomics Initiative, contributing to the UK’s ambition of having the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world.

US biotech Nona Biosciences has entered into an exclusive license agreement with US pharma Pfizer for the global clinical development and commercialisation of Nona Biosciences’ MSLN-targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), HBM9033. The ADC drug HBM9033 specifically targets human MSLN, a tumour-associated antigen upregulated in various solid tumours. Under the terms of the agreement, Nona Biosciences will receive a total of up to $53m in upfront and near-term payments, with the potential for additional payments of up to $1.05bn upon achieving certain development and commercial milestones, plus tiered royalties on net sales.

Sabic, a Saudi chemical manufacturing company, Sabic affiliate company Scientific Design (SD), which develops, licenses and supplies proprietary catalyst processes, and Linde Engineering, an industrial gases and engineering company and subsidiary of German chemical company Linde, have entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore collaboration opportunities to decarbonise SD’s ethylene glycol process. The collaboration aims to achieve low-carbon emissions with Sabic’s CO2 recovery and purification technology. The goal is to establish sustainable ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol production and set industry benchmarks for carbon-neutral industries.

The UK Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards has invited any interested parties, including academia, manufacturers of cosmetic products / raw materials and consumer associations to submit any scientific information relevant to the safety assessment of nanomaterials (or surface functionalised variants, alloys, or other related variants) used in cosmetics, including platinum; copper; silver/colloidal silver; gold/colloidal gold/gold thioethylamino hyaluronic acids; silica/hydrated silica/silica silylate/silica dimethyl silylate; lithium magnesium sodium silicate; and hydroxyapatite.

ACWA Power, a private Saudi power generation and water desalination company, has signed a framework agreement to outline the development of the first phase of a green hydrogen project in Egypt with a capacity of 600,000t/year of green ammonia, with an investment in excess of $4bn.

The Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation has committed up to DKK1.8bn ($260m) to establish a research and vaccine development initiative. Developed in partnership with the University of Copenhagen, it is the first vaccines initiative globally to focus solely on understanding how to generate immunity in the airway itself, a potentially revolutionary means to block infection and prevent airborne diseases spreading between humans. A key partner in the initiative will be Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI). Research at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Initiative for Vaccines and Immunity (NIVI) will focus initially on TB, influenza and Group A Streptococcus, which collectively cause more than 2.5m deaths/year.

Canadian metals recycling company Cyclic Materials has announced successful results from its new Kingston, Ontario, pilot plant, where its proprietary Mag-Xtract technology isolates magnets from recycled end-of-life products. The design capacity of the plant is 8000t/year, and initial runs have processed several tonnes of magnet feedstock/day.

INEOS Phenol, part of chemicals company Ineos Group, has started production at Europe’s largest cumene facility in Marl, Germany. The 750,000t facility produces up to 50% lower CO2 emissions/t of product. The significant reduction in emissions is enabled by pioneering cumene technology in combination with unique heat integration at the Marl Chemical Park. Most of the waste heat from the plant is used for a district heating circle further, reducing the carbon footprint of the site.

Sofinnova Partners, a European life sciences venture capital firm based in Paris, London and Milan, has announced the launch of Biovelocita, an investment strategy dedicated entirely to the creation and acceleration of biotech start-ups in Europe.

C4 Therapeutics, a US clinical-stage biopharma researching targeted protein degradation science to develop a new generation of small-molecule medicines, has entered into an exclusive license and collaboration agreement with German science and technology company Merck KGaA. Under the agreement, the collaboration will develop degrader-antibody conjugates (DACs), an emerging modality designed to selectively target and neutralise disease-causing proteins in cancer cells.

US supplier of paints, coatings and specialty materials PPG has announced the opening of a $17m aerospace application support centre (ASC) in Toulouse, France. The facility provides filling and packaging capabilities for aerospace materials, including coatings and sealants for a wide range of aircraft, as well as technical support and a laboratory. The strategic location of ASC Toulouse enables the company to provide faster product deliveries to aerospace customers in southern Europe and North Africa.

UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey and Basecamp Research, a UK company working in mapping biodiversity for computational bio-design, have announced a partnership to accelerate the adoption of more sustainable, bio-based catalysts. Biocatalysts are used across a vast range of synthesis processes to form complex chemical structures in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and fine chemical industries. The partnership will focus on accelerating the process to find the right biocatalyst solutions that small molecule manufacturers can use for new product development. It will improve the quality and scope of biocatalysts available to the market, covering the most critical chemical transformations such as asymmetric reductions of ketones and chiral reductive amination, which are used to produce the fundamental building blocks in organic synthesis.

Swiss biopharma Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Swiss microbiome translation company PharmaBiome have announced an R&D collaboration to drive forward new microbiome-based biotherapeutics in the field of gastroenterology. The deal provides Ferring with exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise next-generation microbiome-based therapeutics within the field of gastroenterology arising out of the collaboration.

PharmaKure, a UK clinical-stage company developing precision medicine for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, has announced a research collaboration agreement with the Faculty of Pharmacy in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia. The partnership aims to translate clinical research from UiTM using PharmaKure’s whole-blood testing and machine learning technology for identifying early-stage Alzheimer’s disease to support the development of diagnostic tests.

Swedish-Swiss engineering company ABB and Imperial College London have signed a 10-year contract to extend their carbon capture technology partnership. Imperial’s dedicated carbon capture pilot plant is the only one of its kind in an academic institution. The plant, which is spread over four floors, uses ABB’s Ability System 800xA for distributed process control, plus over 250 instruments, which measure temperature, pressure, carbon dioxide and flow. System 800xA automatically controls and coordinates all aspects of the plant process, which is then visualised on displays in the ABB Control Room where students can monitor and intervene if necessary. More than 4,500 students have had hands-on experience of the plant and ABB’s technology solutions since it opened in 2012.

Indian steel producer Tata Steel has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials (University of Manchester, UK) to set up a Centre for Innovation in Advanced Materials where Tata will invest £10m over four years. The new Centre aims to link up advanced materials with the broader UK innovation eco-system, involving multiple universities, Catapult centres and the National Health Service.

Finnish innovation company Metsä Spring, part of forestry services group Metsä, has announced €1m of seed funding in FineCell, the Swedish developer of the FineCell technology and producer of CellOx dry cellulose powder. The funding will develop a demo production facility to turn dry pulp fibre into added-value biomaterial which can be used as a powder or water solution (hydrogel). These can replace fossil-based chemicals in sectors like beauty and healthcare products, as well as commercial paint production. FineCell is a spinout of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

The UK’s Faraday Battery Challenge has awarded the High Value Manufacturing Catapult £12m to deliver a national battery materials scale-up facility, offering companies access to state-of-the-art materials synthesis and processing equipment. The resulting Advanced Materials Battery Industrialisation Centre will provide immediate and next-generation battery materials.

Spanish oil and gas company Cepsa Química, a producer of linear alkylbenzene, the raw material used for biodegradable detergents, has launched the first digital traceability system based on blockchain technology in the detergent and homecare sector. The new tool allows customers to track, via a QR code, the origin of raw materials and associated certificates, which guarantee product sustainability.

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