Business digest

C&I Issue 2, 2024

Read time: 5 mins

A new £13m Centre of Excellence in water-based health monitoring is set to be established at the University of Bath following a major funding award. The Centre of Excellence in Water-Based Early-Warning Systems for Health Protection will develop a public health surveillance system to detect outbreaks of diseases by testing water systems for traces of pathogens or other biomarkers at a community level. This could help prevent future pandemics from spreading by detecting them early, and will provide better understanding of chronic, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

UK biopharma GSK has agreed an exclusive licence agreement with Chinese pharma Hansoh for its B7-H3-targeting antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) HS-20093, which is designed to treat solid tumours. The deal gives GSK the rights to develop and commercialise HS-20093 worldwide, excluding China (mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau).

German chemicals distributor Brenntag has agreed to acquire the Solventis Group, a UK glycols and solvents distribution company, which also operates from Belgium.

The UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) has secured £38m in upgrade funding to support innovation projects for high-tech developers and users of battery technologies. The new funding for the national battery manufacturing scale-up facility will enable activities including additional electrode production equipment to be installed as part of the UKBIC new flexible scale-up line; installation of a flexible 800m2 of clean and dry industrialisation space for new manufacturing process demonstration; and development of advanced digital manufacturing capability to transform how data is analysed for innovative products and processes being scaled up at UKBIC. The funding is provided by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £610m Faraday Battery Challenge, a national investment programme, which is delivered by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

US pharma and biotech Pfizer has completed its acquisition of Seagen, a US biotech that discovers, develops and commercialises cancer medicines. Pfizer paid $229/share in cash, for a total enterprise value of approximately $43bn.

SystImmune, a US clinical-stage biopharma, and US pharma Bristol Myers Squibb have announced an exclusive license and collaboration agreement for SystImmune’s BL-B01D1, a potentially first-in-class EGFRxHER3 bispecific antibody-drug conjugate (ADC). BL-B01D1 clinical studies demonstrate promising anti-tumour activity in patients with a range of solid tumours that had progressed after standard care treatments, including non-small cell lung cancer and breast cancer.

Anglo-Swedish pharma and biotech AstraZeneca has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Icosavax, a US clinical-stage biopharma focused on developing differentiated, high-potential vaccines using a protein virus-like particle (VLP) platform targeting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). VLP vaccines mimic how naturally occurring viruses appear to the body’s immune system, and they may offer potential benefits over non-VLP vaccines, including a stronger immune response, greater breadth of protection, greater durability requiring fewer boosters and, compared to the current adjuvanted RSV vaccine, a lower incidence of side effects.

German biotech BioNTech has signed a multi-year strategic partnership with the State of Victoria in Australia. BioNTech will develop and commission a state-of-the-art mRNA manufacturing facility. The site is intended to support R&D and clinical-scale manufacturing of investigational mRNA-based medicines from the local ecosystem, as well as from other third parties globally. The facility will be based on the company’s high-tech digital manufacturing units called BioNTainers. One unit will be equipped to manufacture mRNA and the formulated drug. The second unit will enable aseptic filling. BioNTech will also set up an mRNA Innovation Center in Melbourne.

ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) and Japanese engineering company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have signed a strategic collaboration agreement to explore potential opportunities to build low-carbon energy supply chains and advance carbon-neutral solutions to accelerate decarbonisation across the energy sector. The two parties will assess opportunities to develop low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia value chains, which are critical to decarbonising hard-to-abate industries and meeting growing global demand for cleaner feedstock for power generation.

Novo Nordisk has become Europe’s most valuable company. The Danish pharma is now worth $487bn thanks to sales – especially in the US – of weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy.

Topsoe, a Danish company specialising in carbon emission reduction technologies, has signed a licensing and engineering agreement with Preem, Sweden’s largest fuel company. The project will produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel using Topsoe’s HydroFlex technology, which will be used in Preem’s isocracker (a unit that breaks down molecules into lighter components). The unit will have a capacity of 1.2m m3/year (22,000 barrels/day) for the production of SAF.

Belgian chemical company Solvay is expanding the hydrogen peroxide capacity of its Shandong Huatai Interox Chemical site in China. Building on its existing partnership with Chinese manufacturer Huatai Chemical, the alliance will enable the site to produce 48,000t of photovoltaic-grade hydrogen peroxide annually by 2025. This investment will help meet rising demand from the photovoltaic industry.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has launched Axiom PangenomiX Array, its largest and most ethnically diverse array offering genetic coverage for population-scale disease studies and pharmacogenomic research. This follows the unveiling of the first draft of a pangenome based on the full genetic blueprints of 47 people around the world to create a more diverse representation of the human genome. Current large-scale genomic datasets, which are used for downstream meta-analysis to build and understand disease risk prediction models, are predominantly based off European and Caucasian cohorts.

US pharma AbbVie and US biotech and pharma Cerevel Therapeutics have announced a definitive agreement under which AbbVie will acquire Cerevel Therapeutics and its neuroscience pipeline of multiple clinical-stage and preclinical candidates with potential across several diseases including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and mood disorders. The transaction values Cerevel at a total equity value of approximately $8.7bn.

German specialty chemicals manufacturer Evonik has gained International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) PLUS for its production at the Essen Goldschmidt site. The certification is based on the mass-balance approach, which ensures that sustainable feedstocks are used and that the supply chain is traceable.

Italmatch Chemicals, an Italian chemical group focused on additives for water treatment, lubricants, performance products, flame retardants and plastic additives, has signed a definitive agreement to purchase the majority of Alcolina shares, a Brazilian chemicals company specialising in water treatment for bioethanol, sugar production and industrial applications, including paints and pulp and paper.

A team of researchers in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the US has established the Synthetic Biology Manufacturing of Advanced Materials Research Center (SMARC) to create an integrated education, research and innovation ecosystem. Its mission is to enhance innovation in the manufacturing of synthetic biological materials by understanding and overcoming barriers to technology adoption in partnership with industry. The team plans to develop a new class of biologically synthesised, protein-based and biodegradable materials that harness themes from nature to replace traditional petroleum-derived plastics.

Oncodesign Services (ODS), a French contract research organisation (CRO) specialising in drug discovery and preclinical services, is acquiring ZoBio, a Dutch CRO with expertise in biophysics-based small-molecule drug discovery.

The UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) has opened its latest facility, the institute of the MRC LMS (Laboratory of Medical Sciences). The institute houses 400 scientists working across themes including genes and the environment; heart and metabolic disease; and sex-based differences in disease. It is hosted by Imperial College London on its Hammersmith campus and is one of only two laboratories in the UK wholly funded by the MRC. The new building was designed to amplify the institute’s core strength of bridging the gap between scientists exploring fundamental biological mechanisms and those translating that work into clinical applications.

GenEdit, a US biotech developer of genetic medicines using its NanoGalaxy platform for tissue-selective delivery, has entered into a multiyear collaboration and license agreement with US biotech Genentech, a member of the Swiss healthcare company Roche Group. The companies will employ NanoGalaxy to discover and develop novel nanoparticles to deliver Genentech’s nucleic acid-based medicines for treatment of autoimmune diseases. GenEdit will collaborate with Genentech to discover and develop hydrophilic nanoparticles that can be used to develop nucleic acid-based medicines for autoimmune indications. Genentech will be responsible for preclinical, clinical, and regulatory development as well as commercialisation of products resulting from the use of GenEdit’s nanoparticles.

US biotech Unnatural Products (UNP), which pairs AI with chemistry to enable the next generation of molecularly targeted therapeutics, is collaborating with German science and technology company Merck to apply UNP’s technology to design and develop macrocyclic candidates against oncology therapeutic targets.

Compass Pathways a UK biotech operating in mental health, and Hackensack Meridian Health, a US not-for-profit healthcare organisation, have formed a research collaboration to investigate COMP360 psilocybin treatment. The collaboration aims to improve health outcomes for mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression. They will work to understand the real-world challenges and opportunities of delivering care to those living with depression, to inform how future clinical trials of COMP360 psilocybin treatment are designed, and to understand how it will be delivered to patients, if FDA approved. COMP360 is Compass’s investigational proprietary formulation of synthetic psilocybin, administered in conjunction with psychological support.

Italian pharmaceutical packaging company Bormioli Pharma and Canadian clean technology company Loop Industries, which works to accelerate the circular plastics economy by manufacturing 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic and polyester fibre, have announced a new pharmaceutical packaging bottle manufactured with 100% recycled virgin-quality PET resin. This will support pharmaceutical companies looking for environmentally responsible choices that meet the standards outlined by both the EU and US Pharmacopeia.

Swiss-based INEOS Olefins & Polymers Europe, part of the UK INEOS Group of chemical manufacturers, has launched a gas pipeline made from bio-based, certified HDPE derived from paper-industry wood-processing residues. These are transformed into tall oil, a bio-naphtha, which is turned into bio-ethylene by INEOS Cologne and transported to the INEOS polymer plant in Lillo, Belgium, where it is used to manufacture bio-based HDPE. The resulting polymer has a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventional, fossil-based polymers.

Bionema Group, a UK developer of biocontrol solutions for crop protection and plant health management, has launched Soil-Jet BSP100, a biodegradable surfactant for the agricultural sector based on patented polyether-modified polysiloxane technology. Aimed at crops including vegetables, grapes, fruit and turf, the product optimises water and nutrient use in irrigation for resource efficiency; addresses soil water repellence, reducing runoff, erosion and nutrient loss; accelerates water penetration, improving moisture distribution in the root zone; enhances water distribution, ensuring consistent moisture and increased nutrient availability; and maintains stable soil moisture, fostering plant growth.

German pigment manufacturer Heubach has introduced its latest product range, Cosmenyl S 100. These are sustainable pigment preparations in aqueous dispersions manufactured from inert inorganic pigments and biodegradable additives. The range is aimed at applications in home care, including laundry detergents, and personal care products such as soaps and toothpaste.

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