November 2008



In this week’s Chemistry World business round-up, we cover Bayer’s settlement with the US government over allegations of bribery, a series of acquisitions in the pharmaceutical sector, and the biggest bioreactor facility in the world.

PHARMACEUTICALS

Bayer made to pay for kickbacks
Bayer Healthcare has reached a $97.5 million (£63.5 million) settlement with the US Department of Justice over allegations that its Diabetes Care division had bribed suppliers to switch customers to their diabetes devices.

The out of court settlement amounts to nearly 8 per cent of the €950 million (£800 million) sales the division achieved worldwide in 2007, but will allow Bayer to continue to take part in the US’ lucrative Medicare programme as long as certain steps that safeguard against future fraudulent behaviour are met.

Schering-Plough forecasts seven blockbusters
Schering-Plough has said its strong drug development pipeline and low exposure to patent expiries could set it apart from the rest of the pharmaceutical industry. In total, the company has predicted that seven of its drug candidates could reach sales of at least $1 billion if they survive the regulatory minefield to reach market.

The company believes its has blockbuster drugs in indications diverse as blood-clotting, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C and Alzheimer’s disease. The news comes a year after the firm’s €11 billion (£9 billion) purchase of Organon, at a time when its successes have been overshadowed by concerns about the safety and effectiveness of its cholesterol drugs Zetia (ezetimibe) and Vytorin (ezetimibe plus simvastatin).

King finally gets its hands on Alpharma
King Pharmaceuticals has finally captured rival drugmaker Alpharma for $1.6 billion, after taking the offer directly to the company’s shareholders. Even though King had increased its bid from $1.4 billion, Alpharma’s board had urged shareholders to take no action over the revised offer.

The deal will strengthen King’s position as a leading supplier of pain drugs, especially after the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) gave Alpharma’s anti-abuse opioid candidate, Embeda (extended-release morphine), positive reviews.

J&J seals Omrix buy-out
Johnson & Johnson has boosted its position in the bioactive wound dressing and surgical products sector by snapping up Israeli-firm Omrix for $438m. The deal builds on a number of existing marketing and product development relationships collaborations between the firms. The companies currently have a fibrin pad that forms an instant clot when they come in contact with blood in Phase II clinical trials.

Roche snaps up partner Memory
Roche is bulking up its Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia development pipelines by buying biotechnology company Memory Pharmaceuticals for $50 million. The two companies have been working together to develop Alzheimer’s drug candidates since 2002 and, in 2003, Roche bought a minority stake in the firm. Roche is offering to pay 61 cents per share for the company, more than three times their value as of Monday evening.

While Roche already has several small molecule and antibody drugs that target the diseases in Phase I or II development, they don’t expect to apply for approval for either of their most advanced candidates until 2011.

Roche has also restated its desire to gain full control of Genentech, amid investor fears that the financial crisis will hamper its ability to fund the $43.7 billion buyout.

Lilly’s takeover of ImClone gets closer
Eli Lilly’s battle to get its hands on ImCone’s cancer drug pipeline seems to be nearing an end after the company announced it had managed to buy 95.5 per cent of the company’s shares by the 21st November deadline. As majority shareholder, Lilly can buy the remaining shares through a short-form merger process which avoids the need for shareholder approval.

Sun set on Chattem buy
Indian drug giant Sun Pharma has bought US active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturer Chattem for an undisclosed amount. Chattem has controlled substance manufacturing facilities in Hungary and the US as well as being licensed to import narcotic materials such as methamphetamine, phenylacetone and raw opium into the US.

INDUSTRY

Evonik steps up production
Despite the financial crisis, speciality chemicals manufacturer Evonik has unveiled plans to triple its isobutene production capacity by building a new facility in Antwerp, Belgium. The new facility will have a projected output of 110,000 tonnes. The plant will reduce Evonik’s exposure to oil price fluctuations by producing the chemical by splitting MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) rather than compounds derived from fossil fuels.

In response to soaring demand, the company has also boosted its DL-methionine production capacity by refurbishing and reopening an old plant to bring its production capacity up to 350,000 tonnes a year. The amino acid, which cannot be synthesised in the body, is used to boost the protein content of animal feeds.

Rohm and Haas expands into Russia
Speciality chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas has opened a new polymer emulsions plant in the Ramenskoye region of Moscow to be close to key clients. The plant will initially focus on supplying adhesives and additives for paint and coating materials, but has been designed to be able to produce a wider range of coatings and detergents in the future.

The company, which will soon be part of Dow Chemical, believes that despite the economic crisis it is important that it continues to make investments in high potential markets like Russia.

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Dow and KPC joint venture ‘on schedule’
Dow Chemical and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) say that plans for their $19 billion joint venture are target, even though negotiations are ongoing. The new entity is expected to produce a range of chemicals, from plastics to agricultural compounds.

KPC is set to pay Dow $9.5 billion for five existing units that will form part of the 50-50 joint venture. Dow has said it plans use the extra cash to repay a large part of the $13 billion debt it will have to shoulder after its acquisition of Rohm and Haas.

Meanwhile, the firm has released a statement saying the company will take necessary, bold and proactive measures to manage its transformation in the face of the global downturn.

Nova Chemicals to idle polymer plant
Nova Chemicals has decided to idle its styrenic polymers plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania, US, due to falling demand for the polymers. The decision to idle the plant for at least a month adds to the growing list of plants being idled as the global financial crisis sets in.
The polymers are primarily used in the automotive and construction markets, which have both been hit heavily by the global downturn.

Johnson Matthey sees profits soar
Precious metals company, Johnson Matthey, has seen profits rise 17 per cent to £140 million in the six months to September on the back of high platinum prices. However, while revenues increased 25 per cent to £4.36 billion in the first six months of the year, the company has issued a profit warning for the second half of the year as demand for its automotive catalytic converters has slumped due to the global financial crisis.

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ENERGY

Novozymes expands in China
Biotechnology firm Novozymes has expanded its Taicang, China, production plant, making it the world’s largest enzyme fermentation facility. The plant makes enzymes used to convert agricultural products to bioethanol. According to Peder Holk Nielsen, executive vice president of Novozymes, ‘bioethanol is a good example of how biotechnology can make more from less, decoupling economic growth from the use of natural resources’.

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b814911a-400

Is it a moth-on-a-chip, or a chip-on-a-moth? Either way, US scientists have found a way to control the insect’s flight by implanting a microfluidic chip into their thorax which releases a controlling chemical on demand. The chip works like a chemical on-off switch, stopping the moths from flying – as the video shows.

When electrically activated, the chip stops the moth flying by releasing a paralysing chemical such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – so not a particuarly subtle way to stop the moth from flying, then. But research continues, and it’s being funded by the US defence department, Darpa. Could chemically-controlled critters soon be flying daring military reconnaissance missions?

Read the full story in Chemistry World, and the full paper in Lab on a Chip.

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Beekeepers could be the new mouse model for immunologists, according to a recent JEM paper. Since unprotected beekeepers will risk a sting in the name of honey, they present a rather unique model of repeated immune response – and their T cells make perfect testing material.

In in vitro tests Meiler et al used samples of beekeepers’ immune cells and found that their immune response alters according to the honey-harvesting season. They initially respond to bee antigen by producing pro-inflammatory signalling molecules. But within a week, the cells start to produce a signalling molecule that lessens the immune response.

I'm covered in bees!

Above: I’m covered in bees!

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Thecommercialchemist

In this week’s Chemistry World business round-up, we cover BASF’s dramatic production cuts, AstraZeneca’s latest China manufacturing move, and Pfizer’s over-the-counter Viagra dysfunction.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

BASF slashes production:
BASF – the world’s largest chemical company by sales – is slashing its production, following a ‘massive decline in demand’ for its products. The company will temporarily shut down 80 of its plants worldwide, and cut production at approximately 100 others. In total, the cuts and closures represent 20 to 25 per cent of the company’s global production capacity. The slump in demand from the construction and automotive industries has particularly hit the firm.

BASF car coatings

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Ineos defers debt repayment:
UK-based Ineos – like BASF – says it is facing an ‘unprecedented’ drop in demand, and is asking its banks for a repayment holiday from its €7.29 billion (£6.2 billion) debt. Ineos – the world’s third largest chemical company – says market conditions are likely to remain unchanged into the first quarter of 2009, and has asked to delay its repayments for the next two financial quarters. The company’s lead bankers, Barclays Capital and Merrill Lynch, have already approved the move.

Chemical industry challenges chancellor:
The UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has called on the government to introduce several measures that will ‘let industry lead the UK out of recession’. Among other changes, CIA has asked the government to underwrite credit insurance and the pension protection fund, and raise the upper limit of the annual investment allowance (which allows companies to buy machinery tax-free) – currently £50,000 – to help the capital-intensive chemicals industry.

Asian expansion:
US chemicals company DuPont has opened its new R&D facility in Hyderabad, India. The 180 scientists at the Knowledge Center will work in biotechnology, materials, and engineering.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Bayer says it plans to build a chlorine recycling plant at its Shanghai site. The plant converts HCl – a byproduct of isocyanate production – back into chlorine, which can then be re-used for isocyanate formation. The plant uses Sumitomo-developed catalyst technology to oxidise the HCl to give chlorine.

Elastomer agreement:
Saudi petrochemicals company Sabic has signed an outline agreement with Exxon Mobil to develop a multimillion dollar elastomer project at their petrochemical joint venture sites at Yanbu and Jubail in Saudi Arabia. The agreement is subject to positive results from feasibility studies, as well as the usual regulatory approvals.

PHARMACEUTICALS

AZ moves more manufacturing:
Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca is to close three European sites – and cut a further 1400 jobs – as it continues to move its manufacturing and packaging activities to China. Porriño in Spain, Destelbergen in Belgium and Umeå in Sweden will all close – and facilities in Macclesfield, UK, and Södertälje, Sweden, will also be affected. Meanwhile, the company will further expand its Wuxi formulation and packaging plant, making it the packaging centre for Asia Pacific. The restructure will be completed by 2013, the company says.

The cuts were announced the day after AZ shares fell over 10 per cent following news that Israel-based generic drug maker Teva had won FDA approval for its generic version of AZ’s asthma drug Pulmicort. The drug made AZ £600 million in 2007. The company has already filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Teva, with the trial due to start on 12 January – and has succeeded in winning a temporary injunction to stop Teva selling the drug.

Novartis pipeline transformation:
Novartis says that restructuring and reprioritising its drug development activities has dramatically improved its drug development pipeline. The Swiss firm says its has 88 candidates in its exploratory pipeline – 40 per cent more than in 2005 – and a quarter of which are biologic drugs. The firm ascribes the improvements to its targeting of therapeutic areas where there is a strong molecular understanding of the disease, from which biomarkers can be identified to monitor the effectiveness of experimental drugs – which also accelerates clinical trials.

Pfizer withdraws Viagra OTC application:
Pfizer has withdrawn its application with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) to sell erectile dysfunction drug Viagra over the counter, following feedback over safety concerns from the regulator’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP). Pfizer says it will collect further data, and may resubmit the application at a later date.

viagra

FDA foreign office:
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened its first offices on foreign soil, establishing offices in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, China. The offices will monitor production of Chinese products destined for the US market. The move follows a series of health scares over products imported into the US from China, including infant formula and the blood thinner heparin.

Avastin warning:
Scientists analysing the risks of side effects from Genentech’s blockbuster cancer drug Avastin have recommended the FDA slap a ‘black box’ warning on the drug – the strongest warning label that can be applied. A meta-analysis of 15 previous studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals that the drug significantly increases the risk of blood clots – although few of these were fatal. In February the FDA approved the drug for breast cancer, despite concerns from its own panel of external advisers that the drug’s benefits didn’t outweigh its risks.

Further Glaxo intimidation accusations:
A second case has emerged of an Avandia critic who alleges they were intimidated by the firm into keeping quiet over their concerns. Maryland doctor Mary Money says she first noticed the risk of heart problems caused by GSK’s diabetes drug in 1999, shortly after it launched, and eight years before the FDA placed a Black Box warning on the drug. The US Senate is currently investigating whether GSK suppressed concerns about the drug, and last year interviewed University of North Carolina researcher John Bose, who also alleges intimidation by the company following criticisms of the drug.

New deal for drugs in the UK:
A new pricing deal has been agreed between UK government and the pharmaceutical industry on the prices paid for drugs by the National Health Service (NHS). The Office of Fair Trading, the government’s anti-monopoly agency, had decided the NHS was paying too much – and the new agreement, whose negotiations have been a source of friction between government and the pharmaceutical industry, will cut £400-500 million from the NHS’s annual bill.

All branded drugs will receive a price cut of 3.9 per cent from February 2009, with a further 1.9 per cent reduction a year later. In return, however, drug manufacturers have been given the ability to raise the price of a drug already on the market, if new evidence emerges of its clinical effectiveness. The new scheme also insists that from January 2010, the NHS will routinely substitute all off-patent branded drugs with cheaper unbranded generics.

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Rajendra K Pachauri is currently the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and in 2007 this panel along with Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.

In this interview, Pachauri discusses the recent successes of the IPCC, his delight at the launch of the new RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, and how undergraduates should learn to think outside the box.

To read this interview in full visit the Chemical Science website.

More interviews with the most influential scientists of today are also available online.

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Solvay has become the fourth pharmaceutical company to stop working on cannaboid receptor 1 (CB1) drugs following the recomendation by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) that doctors stop prescribing Sanofi-aventis‘ rimonabant (Acomplia) that targets the same receptor.

Following Pfizer’s decision to pull the plug on its CB1 antagonist ‘based on changing regulatory perspectives on the risk / benefit profile of the drug class’, Solvay has decided to throw in the towel due to ‘new and high regulatory hurdles for approval of a compound of this class’.

The Belgian firm suffered a blow last month when Bristol-Myers-Squibb returned the worldwide rights to its CB1 drug candidate and had been considering the next step for the drug’s development.

Merck had already decided to pull its CB1 antagonist, taranabant, out of clinical trials after results showed that adverse psychiatric side effects increased with increasing dosage.

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Thecommercialchemist

In this week’s Chemistry World business round-up, we cover more acquisitions in the pharma and chemical industries as well as updates to the REACH pre-registration system.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

REACH system updated
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has updated the REACH-IT system used to pre-register chemicals that are currently in use by companies with the Agency. The load on the system has increased dramatically over the last few months as the number of daily users has increased from below 2000 a day in September to nearly 20,000 a day.
This load has caused users difficulties accessing the system and so the ECHA is offering enhanced assistance to those still intending to pre-register and may need help in doing so in time.

Perspex owner snapped up

Japan’s Mitsubishi Raydon is to buy UK-based Lucite, the world’s largest producer of methylmethacrylate (MMA) and the owner of the Perspex brand, for $1.6 billion in cash. The merger will give the Japanese synthetic fibre and chemical manufacturer production bases in the US and Europe and allow it to accelerate its expansion into the emerging markets of Russia and South America. Lucite was formed from an amalgamation of the acrylics businesses of ICI and DuPont in 1993 and has developed a low cost method of producing MMA.

Rohm and Haas formulate a plan

Rohm and Haas’ Ion Exchange Division is offering a new oral drug formulation service to provide pharma firms with a cost-effective way for customers to reduce development times.

DuPont opens TiCl4 unit
DuPont has opened a new titanium tetrachloride purification unit in Tennessee, US, to capitalise on the growing use of titanium in the manufacture of aeroplanes, sporting goods and chemical processing equipment.

DuPont hits back in nylon dispute

DuPont has also filed a lawsuit against US polymer and fibre producer Invista, claiming the firm is infringing its intellectual property to produce nylon 6,6 engineering resins. The counter claims are in response to Invista’s claims in August that Rhodia and DuPont were ‘unlawfully using its trade secrets to expand in the nylon chemicals business’.

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Evonik plots ‘a good course’
German specialities chemical company Evonik recorded sales of €12.1 billion in the first nine months of 2008, up 13 per cent compared to last year and reaffirmed its belief that sales growth for the whole year would be in the high single digits. The firm’s pretax profits increased 12 per cent to €1.1 billion.

The company’s Chemicals Business Area achieved 13 per cent growth to record sales of €8.9 billion sales, although this was mostly due to higher selling prices as sales volumes increased 4 per cent.

Ineos to combine olefin and polymer groups

Ineos is combining its European olefins and polyolefins businesses into a single unit that will employ around 3600 people across ten sites and have a turnover of around €9 billion.

PHARMACEUTICALS

AZ boosted by trial results
New clinical trial results have shown that AstraZeneca’s Crestor (rosuvastatin) reduced the risk of severe heart attacks by a dramatic 44 per cent in apparently healthy older people. While AstraZeneca may hope the findings will increase sales of the drug, the risks were only small anyway, with a 1.8 per cent chance of the placebo group having a ‘hard cardiac event’.

The trial subjects all had normal cholesterol levels but elevated levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) leading to some experts calling for more hsCRP testing.

Merck Serono extends reach
Merck Serono is expanding its biotechnology production centre in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, to enable the firm to produce greater quantities of its anticancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab). The expansion will add two new dedicated production suites that will also enable the firm to produce treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory treatments currently in development. The company expects the new plants to start producing antibody therapies during 2012.

Avandia under pressure
New clinical trial results have shown that GSK’s diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) does not significantly reduce progression of plaque build-up in coronary arteries. This is just the latest blow for GSK which has seen sales of the drug fall 23 per cent in the third quarter to $314 million. It has also come under fire from a public advocacy group which claims it has caused more than a dozen cases of liver failure

Ranbaxy snapped up
Japanese pharma giant Daiichi Sankyo has acquired Indian generics manufacturer Ranbaxy Laboratories for $4.5 billion ending media speculation that Ranbaxy’s troubles with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would stall the deal.

Solvay gets ‘personalised’

Belgian pharma firm, Solvay, has bought diagnostics expert Innogenetics in a deal worth over €200 million to accelerate its drug development programmes ‘through the implementation of biomarkers, diagnostics and eventually companion diagnostics’.

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Chemists in Japan have created light-driven polymer films that can walk like inchworms and move like robotic arms. 

The films, made by Tomiki Ikeda at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokahama and collaborators, contain a polymer which contracts and expands under different light sources.  The polymers contain N=N double bonds that under visible light have a cis conformation which means the polymer is bent. But when the light source is changed to UV the bonds become trans and the polymer flattens.

To make the polymer walk, the group incorporated it in a laminated film with one pointed end (at the back of the ‘worm’) and one flat end (at the front of the ‘worm’). As the polymer bends the pointed back end is dragged forward then, when the light source is changed to UV, the polymer flattens, pushing the front flat end forward. This continuous flattening–bending motion allows the film to ‘inch’ forward.

The robotic arm also uses clever lamination, but this time the polymer layer and laminated sections are alternated along the length of the film. By controlling the intensity of the light and the position on the film where the light is concentrated, the researchers can make the ‘arm’ move as they chose.

To see movies of this polymer in action and learn about possible applications for this exciting research, see Ruth Doherty’s Chemical Science article.

Read more exciting news articles on the Chemical Science homepage. And don’t forget to sign up for our e-alerts

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Thecommercialchemist

In this week’s Chemistry World business round-up, we cover more pharma job cuts, legal tussles, and the latest financial results – as the agrochemicals sector continues to defy the financial crisis.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

Huntsman’s losses narrow as Hexion sues banks

Fresh from winning its legal battle to force Hexion to honour its $10.6 billion (£4.5 billion) takeover deal agreed in July 2007, speciality chemical firm Huntsman has recorded a 13 per cent increase in third quarter revenues. But despite revenues of $2.73 billion, the company still made a net loss of $20.2 million, although this was much smaller than the $150 million loss recorded during the same period last year.

However, despite the legal victories, Huntsman’s takeover could still be off. Hexion is suing Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank for breach of contract after they decided the deal was no longer financially advantageous in light of the damage the financial crisis has done to the market values of the firms.

After first trying to wriggle out of the deal by stating the combined firm would be insolvent, Hexion now claims that declining oil prices and the weakening euro have improved Huntsman’s performance, while an additional $1.4 billion in equity from Huntsman and Hexion shareholders would shore up the merged company’s books.

Ciba’s profits fall as BASF buyout nears

Despite raising its prices, Ciba‘s net profits fell 9 per cent during the third quarter of 2008 to SF46 million (£24.8 million). The Swiss speciality chemical maker blamed a rapid slowing of European demand, and warned it may not be able to meet its projected profit levels for the rest of the year.

Earlier this week, BASF announced that over 68 per cent of Ciba’s shares had been tendered as part of its takeover offer. Over 66.67 of Ciba shares had to be tendered for the deal – worth $3 billion in cash and a further $2.2 billion in debt – to proceed.

Clariant maintains momentum

Price increases of 6 per cent helped Clariant compensate for a 15 per cent increase in raw materials costs and record third quarter revenues of SF2 billion, one per cent down on the same period last year. Increased operating profits and a lack of ‘exceptional items’ saw the company post a net profit of SF78 million, compared to a loss of SF51 million last year.

Lyondell idles as downturn kicks in

LyondellBassell is the latest chemical manufacturer to be affected by the slowing demand for chemicals and has decided to temporarily close its ethylene plant in La Porte, Texas.

As reported in the November issue of Chemistry World, Ineos, Dow and BASF have all recently cut production as demand falls.

‘Leading’ clean fuel technology company created by merger

University spin-out Oxford Catalysts has bought microchannel process technology expert Velocys from Battelle Memorial Institute for an undisclosed amount. According to Roy Lipski, Chief Executive of Oxford Catalysts: ‘the enlarged group has the core technology and critical mass required to become a leader in the fast emerging small scale synthetic fuels market.’

AGROCHEMICALS

Bayer expands reach

Despite the credit crunch, Bayer CropScience is investing €15 million on expanding its seed processing and storage site in Parma, Idaho to ‘meet the future needs of its customers’.

Meanwhile, the company has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) on agricultural research for joint development and global marketing of ‘advanced technologies, that will improve farming productivity and enhance the quality of agriculture produce’.

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Dow challenges pesticide ban

Dow has challenged Quebec’s province-wide ban on the residential use of weed-killing chemicals as a violation of the North American Fair Trade Agreement stating that ‘the actions of the government of Quebec are tantamount to a blanket ban based on non-scientific criteria’.

PHARMACEUTICALS

GSK slashes 1000 US sales jobs

As part of its ongoing ‘Operational Excellence’ programme, GlaxoSmithKline has decided to cut 1000 jobs from its US sales staff. The cuts represent around 12 per cent of the US sales force and will be made before the end of the year.

The company’s primary-care sales team will be hardest hit by the cutbacks, but according to a GSK spokesperson, the cuts will not be made across the board, with growing parts of the company including vaccines and specialty pharmaceuticals likely to see jobs added.

The move was not unexpected as Andrew Witty, GSK’s CEO, had said during the company’s third quarter results presentation that he was looking at all parts of its US operations, including the sales team.

There may still be more agony in line for the company’s employees as ‘Operational Excellence’ is only about half way through.

Antiobesity drugs fail

Since our report two weeks ago of the EMEA’s (European Medicines Agency) recommendation that doctors stop prescribing Sanofi-aventis’ anti-obesity drug rimonabant (Acomplia), the firm has decided to abandon all remaining clinical trials and shelve the compound. The news comes shortly after Merck decided to halt development of its ‘me-too’ cannaboid receptor 1 (CB1) antagonist alternative taranabant.

Fearing that its CB1 antagonist will suffer from problems similar rimonabant’s, Pfizer has halted development of its candidate, CP-945,598, effectively marking the end of the road for what was once thought to be a blockbuster target in the making.

ENERGY

Bioethanol bankruptcy gives investors a hangover

VeraSun, the largest listed US bioethanol producer, has filed for relief under chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code after it took out hedges to protect against rising corn prices in June. However, the plan backfired as corn prices have since halved, leaving the company with no alternative than to declare itself bankrupt. The volatile industry has lost up to 90 per cent of its market value over the past two years.

depression-drink-300

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Gender-switching in mud snails has decreased following a European Union ban on tributyltin in ship hull paint.
In the mud snails Nassarius reticulatus the antifouling agent tributyltin causes the imposex condition, where females develop male sexual characteristics such as a penis. Use of this chemical in ship paint was banned by the European Union in 2003 and Milene Rato (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and colleagues set out to see if the snails had started to recover after the ban. To do this they measured the penis lengths in female snails. And found that the regulation has had the desired favourable impact on pollution levels.

To learn more visit Rebecca Brodie’s Chemical Science article

Reference
Temporal evolution of imposex in Nassarius reticulatus (L.) along the Portuguese coast: the efficacy of EC regulation 782/2003
Miléne Rato, Nelson Ferreira, José Santos and Carlos Barroso,
J. Environ. Monit., 2008, DOI: 10.1039/b810188d

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