November 2010



MRS fall 2010 logo

Well, I’m back in Boston, US, for the annual Fall meeting of the Materials Research Society, and at least the weather is better than a couple of months ago at the American Chemical Society meeting.

With over 50 parallel sessions, the array of topics at the MRS is completely bewildering – I spent the day flitting between sessions on nanodiamonds (a materials scientist’s best friend…), new materials and designs for fuel cells and solar cells, and even dropped in on a panel session about the making of a materials science TV show that’ll be airing over here in the new year (Sorry folks, PBS are keeping it to themselves at the moment, but there’s a chance it might be available online outside of the US after it’s aired over here).

Right – off to the poster session to scout out some cutting edge chemistry (nothing at all to do with the free food…)

Phillip Broadwith

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29 November 2010: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below… (more…)

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PHARMACEUTICAL

Herceptin gets Nice nod

The UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has recommended Herceptin (trastuzumab) for the treatment of certain kinds of stomach cancer. The cancer drug, marketed by Roche subsidiary Genentech, has become widely used for the treatment of breast cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody designed to block the function of a protein with cancer-causing potential called human epidermal growth factor receptor two (HER2). In some cancer cells, there is too much HER2, which causes cells to grow and divide too rapidly. In January, the European Commission granted marketing approval to Herceptin for the treatment of stomach cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed suit in October. In 2009, sales of Herceptin increased 8 per cent to CHF5.3 billion (£3.4 billion) making it the third biggest seller at Roche behind Avastin (bevacizumab) and Rituxan (rituximab). (more…)

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We’ve had a look at some of the financial results for the third quarter of 2010 already. Here’s the rest of the data. (All percentage changes are based on the same period last year.)

PHARMACEUTICAL

AstraZeneca made sales of $7.9 billion (£5 billion), a 4 per cent decrease. Operating income decreased 25 per cent to $2.4 billion.

Bayer made sales of €8.6 billion (£7.3 billion), a 16 per cent increase. Operating income decreased 14 per cent to €560 million. (more…)

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How long does nicotine take to get to your brain after puffing a cigarette? And what does it do when it gets there? Find out in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast with Simon Cotton from Uppingham School, UK.

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PHARMACEUTICAL

Sekisui buys Genzyme diagnostics

Japanese chemical group Sekisui has agreed to buy the diagnostic products business at Genzyme for $265 million (£168 million) in cash. Sekisui has agreed to offer employment to all 575 employees involved upon closing. In addition, it is planning to continue operations at all the current sites. In 2009, the Genzyme diagnostics business generated sales of $167 million. (more…)

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22 November 2010: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below…

(more…)

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 PHARMACEUTICAL

Job cuts at Roche…

Swiss pharma major Roche says it will cut 4800 jobs – 6 per cent of its global workforce – in 2011 and 2012. In addition, 800 jobs will be transferred within the organisation and 700 outsourced. The move comes as part of a cost cutting initiative that the company says will save it CHF 2.4 billion (£1.5 billion) annually. But the restructuring will cost Roche CHF 2.7 billion from 2010 to 2012. ‘The initiative is a response to mounting cost pressures in healthcare, particularly in the US and Europe, and to increasing hurdles for the approval and pricing of new medicines,’ the company says. As part of the plan, it will look to sell two US sites – in Florence, South Carolina, and Boulder, Colorado – and close one site in France.

…and Bayer

German pharma and chemical company Bayer is doing likewise, with plans to cut 4500 jobs worldwide by 2012. Meanwhile, 2500 new jobs are to be created ‘particularly in the emerging markets’ so that the net loss will be 2000, 1.8 per cent of the 108,700-strong total workforce. The move will save Bayer €800 million (£685 million) annually from 2013, it says, although a one-off cost of €1 billion is expected by 2012 to cover the restructuring. It adds that ‘sales and earnings are under pressure from generic products, rising development costs and the effects of health care reforms’. (more…)

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Pond-Pong

Video games are an integral part of modern culture – but what if you could harness the appeal of gaming to manipulate real live biotechnology? That’s exactly what Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and a group from Stanford University, US, have done.

The idea is to create what they call ‘biotic games’, and they’ve started with versions of Pong, Pac-man, Breakout and a football game using single-celled organisms called paramecia. These little bugs – more usually found in scum on ponds – are controlled by manipulating an electric field using a familiar-looking game controller. The paramecia swim towards the cathode, so by switching the field in different directions they can be guided up, down, left and right to kick a virtual football, or munch on virtual yeast cells while avoiding killer fish. The Pong-style game uses chemicals released from a microneedle to repel the paramecia towards the opponent’s goal.

But don’t just take my word for it – check out their video of all the games in action

(more…)

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PHARMACEUTICAL

HGS granted approval for Benlysta

An advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended granting marketing approval for Benlysta (belimumab) for the treatment of lupus. Benlysta is a member of a new class of fully human monoclonal antibodies that inhibits B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLYS), a protein that facilitates the development of plasma B cells. In autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, plasma B cells produce antibodies that attack healthy tissue instead of unwanted antigens. The candidate is being developed by US biotech Human Genome Sciences and UK pharma major GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) under a 2006 agreement. (more…)

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