Over the last fortnight the UK press has been saturated with the furore over MP’s expense claims. But it seems that the MP for Weaver Valley in Cheshire, the Right Honourable Mike Hall, has been using his expenses to good effect and single-handedly trying to keep the chemical industry in business by spending in the region of £250 per month on cleaning products. These included ‘cleaning cloths / sponges; kitchen towels; toilet tissue; floor/kitchen/oven/window cleaning fluids; bathroom cleaners/ disinfectant/bleach; Limelite solution; laundry products; stain removers; air fresheners; polish; binbags; and vermin and pest sprays.’

With a list like that – surely he must be the most squeaky-clean MP in the country?

INDUSTRY

Dow divests dutch refinery

Dow Chemical is continuing its divestment plan at breakneck speed in a bid to raise enough money to pay back loans it took out to purchase Rohm & Haas in April. The US chemical giant has now sold its stake in the Total Raffinaderij Nederland N.V. (TRN), a joint venture it shared with Total S.A., to Valero Energy Corporation in a deal estimated to be worth $725 million (£457 million). The company has also sold its calcium chloride business to an unnamed ‘strategic buyer’ for around $210 million.

The moves follow Dow’s sale of Rohm &Haas’ Morton Salts subsidiary, and the company has now sold off assets worth $2.6 billion. The firm has also raised $7 billion through debt and equity offerings to help pay off its debt.

Sunny prospects for photovoltaics growth

A market research report published by Linx-AEI Consulting has predicted that demand for the advanced materials used in photovoltaic solar cells will recover strongly after declining to $2.3 billion during 2009. According to the report, end user demand will grow from 5.7GW to 36GW by 2015 – causing the market to grow to $15 billion.

Sales of photovoltaics / $ million

pvchart-web

(C) Lix-AEI Consulting

Clariant defoams
Swiss speciality chemical company Clariant has bought XL Performance Chemicals for an undisclosed amount to bolster its presence in the foam control market.

foam-400

‘We see great business opportunity here in a global market that exceeds $2 billion and is growing annually at a rate of 4 to 5 percent,’ says Hugh Fowler, head of Clariant’s North American Functional Chemicals group.

‘At some point in virtually every manufacturing process – our own included – foam is created. Eliminating this foam or bubbles from such products as paints or cements is essential for these products to perform optimally as designed.’

BASF to boost amine production

German chemical giant BASF is to boost its amine production capacity by building a new methylamine plant at is Verbund site in Geismar, Louisiana, US. The plant will supply raw materials for some 20 different speciality amines already produced at the site.

‘This plant will strengthen our leading position as a global supplier of standard and specialty amines. With this backward integration, we are reinforcing the integrated Verbund in Geismar and paving the way to continued growth for our business with methylamine derivatives,’ says Beate Ehle, president of BASF’s Intermediates division.

‘This is extremely important for us since our customers use these derivatives as key starting materials to manufacture water treatment, gas treatment and cleaning agents, detergents as well as pharmaceuticals and crop protectants – products that provide answers to global needs and future megatrends.’

Oxford Catalysts goes drilling for ‘gold’

Oxford Catalysts has signed a memorandum of understanding with Potter Drilling to explore the application of its instant steam technology to hydrothermal spallation drilling of geothermal wells – a process that uses superheated fluid to drill into rocks and make geothermal wells that can be used to generate electricity.

geothermal

Geothermal wells are notoriously difficult to drill using conventional techniques as the wells are often sunk deep into hard rocks that are difficult to penetrate and quickly wear down rotary drill bits. Potter Drilling’s method overcomes these problems using superheated fluid to drill into the rocks, but creating the hot fluid can be cumbersome.

Oxford Catalysts instant steam technique produces steam at temperatures up to 800C using a catalyst to react methanol with hydrogen peroxide.

Because it is capable of generating superheated steam deep underground, Tom Wideman, chief technology officer at Potter Drilling believes ‘Oxford Catalyst’s Instant Steam technology is ideally suited to produce the heat for Potter Drilling’s hydrothermal spallation drilling technology.’

Rhodia gets first Kyoto carbon credits

French chemical company Rhodia has received the first emission reduction units (ERU) generated in Europe for a project located in its Salindres, France, site that will enable an average annual reduction of about 200,000 tons of CO2 between 2009 and 2012.

‘Rhodia keeps developing innovative solutions to tackle climate change efficiently. Thanks to the Salindres project, the group confirms to be ahead in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction project development,’ says Philippe Rosier, president of Rhodia Energy Services.

PHARMACEUTICAL

J&J buys Cougar

Johnson and Johnson (J&J) has agreed to buy Cougar Biotechnology for just under $1 billion in a deal that will give it access to Cougar’s investigational prostate cancer drug abiraterone. The first-in-class drug is currently being studied in two Phase II trials, one in patients with metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer who have progressed after docetaxel-based chemotherapy has failed and the other in men who have yet to receive chemotherapy.

cougar

J&J has made an offer of $43 per share for the company – a 16 per cent premium on Cougar’s closing price on Thursday.

‘The acquisition of Cougar Biotechnology with its talented team will strengthen our growing capabilities toward a leadership position in the global oncology market,’ says William Hait, head of R& D at J&J’s Ortho Biotech Oncology unit. ‘We are developing new treatments that we anticipate will change the course of cancer treatment by targeting the tumor and its microenvironment and thereby will provide a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of patients worldwide.’

Merck expands medical assistance programme

Merck & Co. has said it is increasing the income threshold for patients to qualify to receive Merck medicines for free.

‘During these difficult economic times, Merck remains committed to helping people get the medicines they need,’ said Kenneth Frazier, president of Global Human Health at Merck & Co. ‘For more than 50 years, the Merck Patient Assistance Program has helped millions of patients by providing Merck medicines free of charge. Our recent enhancement to the program will enable us to help even more people.’

The move follows Pfizer’s announcement last week that it was setting up a similar scheme, which has been claimed to have been worth at least $100 million in free advertising for the company.

EU and US to give pharma a boost

The European Commission has announced the first 15 projects to be awarded funding from its Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI). Between them, the projects will receive €246 million (£216 million) and will help improve the training of researchers and clinicians involved in drug development in areas such as diabetes, pain, asthma and psychiatric disorders.

The projects will be partly funded to the tune of €136 million by pharmaceutical companies belonging to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and will aim to tackle the main bottlenecks in the drug discovery process.

‘Our objective is for Europe to become a champion’s league for biopharmaceutical research. In times of crisis, such a model of cooperation is proving well suited to answering both EU competitiveness objectives and public health needs,’ said Janez Potocnik, the EU Commissioner for Science and Research.

Meanwhile, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said it is launching the first integrated drug development pipeline to produce new treatments for rare and neglected diseases. The $24 million programme will focus on finding cures for the 6800 rare diseases that affect over 25 million Americans.

‘The NIH is eager to begin the work to find solutions for millions of our fellow citizens faced with rare or neglected illnesses,’ said NIH Acting Director Raynard Kington. ‘The federal government may be the only institution that can take the financial risks needed to jumpstart the development of treatments for these diseases, and NIH clearly has the scientific capability to do the work.’

Cancer charity to bridge funding gap

British charity, Cancer Research UK, has decided to fund clinical drugs on GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) aurora kinase inhibitor 1070916A because of limited corporate funding. In return, the charity will receive a share of the profits if the drug is successfully launched.

‘Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have always had to prioritise which agents they take into clinical development, but even more so in the current economic climate,’ says Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Research Technology (CRT) unit. ‘This deal with GSK demonstrates how Cancer Research UK and CRT can work with industry to speed up the development of anti-cancer drugs that might otherwise remain on companies’ shelves.’

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