Business digest

C&I Issue 6, 2024

Read time: 4-5 mins

Neurolentech, a drug discovery spin out from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, has announced a technology access partnership with UK biotech Kaerus Bioscience, which works to treat patients with rare genetic neurodevelopment syndromes. The agreement enables Kaerus Bioscience to access Neurolentech’s neurodevelopmental disorders drug discovery platform and leverage its proprietary cell models and assays for functional screens to drive research in neurodevelopmental disorders.

INEOS Nitriles has started selling Invireo, its new bio-based acetonitrile for pharmaceutical production. A core solvent, acetonitrile is necessary for the development, purification and production of many pharmaceuticals such as insulin and vaccines. Invireo is produced using a controlled and certified mass-balance route which offers customers products with the same performance as conventionally produced acetonitrile, but with a 90% reduction in carbon footprint.

Belgian science company Syensqo’s Kallo-Beveren production facility has successfully achieved carbon neutrality by running exclusively on renewable energy. The facility produces Syensqo’s Ryton polyphenylene sulfide specialty polymer compounds, and its transition covers the complete decarbonisation of the plant with regard to emissions under the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, part of the company’s strategy to reduce direct and indirect emissions by 40% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.

German pharma and biotech Bayer and German life science company Evotec are collaborating to develop treatments for cardiovascular diseases. The agreement aims to identify and validate novel targets, with the goal of building a portfolio of precision cardiology therapeutics using Evotec’s disease modelling capabilities with human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs provide unique opportunities to identify new disease mechanisms and pathways for novel treatments. Both companies will contribute drug targets and a comprehensive set of technology platforms to develop treatments.

German-founded chemical company Linde, which is headquartered in the UK, Saudi chemical manufacturer SABIC and German chemical company BASF have inaugurated the world’s first demonstration plant for large-scale electrically heated steam cracking furnaces at BASF’s Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Steam crackers produce basic chemicals and require significant energy to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics – typically, in furnaces at 850°C. Up to now, these temperatures have been reached using conventional fuels. The demonstration plant shows that continuous olefin production is possible electrically. By using renewable electricity, the new technology could reduce CO2 emissions from one of the most energy-intensive production processes in the chemical industry by at least 90% compared with current technologies.

Austrian oil, gas and petrochemical company OMV and Austrian polyolefin producer Borealis have entered into long-term feedstock supply agreements for their recycling facilities with TOMRA Feedstock, a subsidiary of Norwegian sorting technology producer TOMRA. OMV will process feedstock supplied from TOMRA Feedstock plants in its ReOil plants in Austria, while Borealis will process feedstock produced by TOMRA at its mechanical recycling operations elsewhere in Europe. The feedstock will be produced from mixed post-consumer plastic material otherwise lost to landfill and incineration at a first-of-its-kind sorting facility currently being developed by TOMRA in Germany.

Finnish state-owned energy company Fortum is to build a €17m hydrogen production pilot plant in Loviisa near Fortum’s Loviisa nuclear power plant in southern Finland. Hydrogen will be produced by electrolysers using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a capacity of around 2MW from the main grid and using local household water in Loviisa. The pilot is part of Fortum’s strategy to explore hydrogen production through small-scale projects in the Nordic countries.

UK genomics company Broken String Biosciences, which is developing cell and gene therapies, has entered a research collaboration with the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to understanding the biology underlying health and disease. The partnership aims to develop novel applications for Broken String’s proprietary DNA break-mapping platform, INDUCE-seq. The research will be focused on leveraging the technology to investigate the impact of genomic instability in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive and debilitating neurodegenerative disease that causes gradual loss of the ability to control voluntary movements and basic bodily functions.

The University of Oxford is leading a major UK government investment in research to improve the sustainability of chemical and polymer production. The Sustainable Chemicals and Materials Manufacturing Hub (SCHEMA) will bring together researchers from across the UK working with a large consortium of commercial, technology translation and civic partners. The Hub has been funded by £11m from the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

UK renewable energy equipment manufacturer Compact Syngas Solutions is partnering with UK specialist gas-to-liquids company Compact GTL and Concord Engineering Ukraine (based in Dnipro, Ukraine) to boost Ukrainian energy security with a waste-to-power plant. The £1.9m project will build a plant that produces 500kW power, 500kW heat and potentially hydrogen from waste biomass and refuse-derived fuel.

US pet food manufacturer Purina and US food corporation Cargill have launched a new partnership aimed at promoting regenerative agriculture practices within their corn and soya supply chains to reduce the carbon footprint of Purina’s dry pet food products across North America. The initiative will use regenerative methods across more than 81,000ha of farmland in the US.

German science and technology company Merck has kicked off its global 2024 Curiosity Cube tour in Darmstadt, Germany. Using solar-powered shipping containers turned into mobile science labs, Merck will visit communities across Europe and North America to engage 45,000 students with hands-on STEM education via interactive science.

Dutch academic publishing, information and analytics company Elsevier has announced the launch of SciBite Chat, a new AI-powered interface built atop SciBite Search designed to be a semantic search tool for life sciences. SciBite Chat combines the strength of semantic search for accurate and traceable information retrieval with large language models for interpreting human language and answer generation.

Indian glass manufacturer Asahi India Glass Limited and Indian manufacturer of industrial and medical gases INOX Air Products have entered into a 20-year agreement for the supply of green hydrogen to Asahi’s greenfield float glass facility in Rajasthan. This will be India’s first green hydrogen plant for the float glass industry, with the capacity to generate up to 190t of green hydrogen per annum via electrolysis.

UK CDMO Touchlight Genetics has developed a novel, circular, single-stranded genome editing template known as MegaBulb DNA (mbDNA), which shows low cellular toxicity and achieves high gene-length knock-in efficiencies, outperforming other non-viral technologies and rivalling viruses. It allows for a robust and scalable process suitable for rapid development towards GMP production and also addresses a major bottleneck for non-viral gene therapy development. In partnership with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (the UK’s national metrology institute), Touchlight has secured funding from Innovate UK to comprehensively characterise mbDNA, develop relevant analytical methods, and rapidly scale up manufacture.

UK software company Optibrium, a developer of AI solutions for drug discovery, has signed a license agreement for its AI-powered discovery platform, Cerella, with US crop protection chemical manufacturer FMC. Under the agreement, FMC will implement Cerella to enhance its agrochemical discovery programmes and accelerate development of its pipeline. Cerella will be used to predict the best compounds to synthesise and which to progress to further studies, based on early experimental data, thereby improving the cost, time and success rate of small-molecule discovery.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, a US supplier of analytical instruments, life sciences solutions, specialty diagnostics, laboratory, pharmaceutical and biotechnology services, has launched its Applied Biosystems Axiom BloodGenomiX array and software, a solution for more precise blood genotyping in clinical research. The new array detects most extended and rare blood groups, tissue and platelet types in a single, high-throughput assay, supporting future advances in donor blood matching for extended phenotypes.

German science and technology company Merck is investing more than €300m in a new research centre at its global headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. In the Advanced Research Center, the Life Science business sector will research solutions for manufacturing antibodies, mRNA applications and additional products required for biotechnological production. The new research centre is part of an investment programme in Merck’s Darmstadt site of €1.5bn by 2025.

Irish CRISPR licensing company ERS Genomics and Italian drug discovery CRO IRBM have announced a non-exclusive CRISPR/Cas9 license agreement. The agreement grants IRBM access to ERS’ CRISPR/Cas9 patent portfolio.

UK sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey (JM) and German company thyssenkrupp Uhde, a provider of engineering, construction and servicing of chemical plant, have joined forces to offer an integrated solution for blue ammonia technology. The partnership leverages proven technologies combining the Uhde ammonia process and JM’s hydrogen expertise through its low-carbon hydrogen technology, which will enable the production of blue ammonia with up to 99% CO2 capture.

German biotech NEOsphere Biotechnologies, a company working on high-throughput proteomics to systematically build portfolios of novel degrader targets at scale, has announced a collaboration with US biopharma Kymera Therapeutics, which is focused on unlocking undrugged or poorly drugged disease-causing protein targets that can be only or best be addressed by targeted protein degradation. NEOsphere will use its target- and E3-agnostic platform to screen molecular glue compounds. Identified target candidates will be mechanistically validated by global ‘ubiquitinomics’, providing insights to support Kymera’s drug discovery engine.

German chemical company BASF is helping customers develop next-generation electric motors for electric vehicles via its Ultrasim Web Services portfolio. The online service gives access to BASF’s material and simulation expertise for designers of a wide range of automotive components, including housings for motors, inverters, stators/rotors and IGBTs; high-voltage connectors; slot liners; components in contact with oils and cooling fluids; bearing cages; magnetic encapsulation and engine mounts. Ultrasim also helps meet targets for energy-efficiency, recyclability and low carbon footprint.

US biotech Itaconix, which develops sustainable plant-based polymers to help decarbonise consumer products, has launched two phosphate-replacement ingredients for improving the performance of household detergents. Itaconix TSI 422 is designed to eliminate the detrimental effects of hard water in detergent. Itaconix ONZ 405 is a powder version of Itaconix’s liquid ingredients that add fast-acting odour neutralisation and scale inhibition to detergents and cleaners.

Swiss speciality chemical company Clariant has launched CATOFIN 312, its latest propane dehydrogenation (PDH) catalyst, which delivers greater selectivity and up to 20% longer life. Clariant claims that with this increased productivity, a typical 600kt/annum PDH facility could realise up to $20m in additional profits over the life of the catalyst.

Swiss textiles chemicals company Archroma has introduced a bio-based water repellent finish that produces clothing that is soft to the touch and yet offers rain and stain protection. PHOBOTEX NTR-50 LIQ works with synthetic fibres and their blends and is based on 50% renewable carbon content and is free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and formaldehyde.