PHARMACEUTICAL

Lilly goes for diabetes in China

US pharma company Eli Lilly is planning to open a research centre in Shanghai, China, that will focus on new medicines for the treatment of diabetes.

‘We are establishing this research centre, first and foremost, to meet the growing unmet medical needs of those living in China with diabetes,’ said Jan Lundberg, executive vice president, science and technology. The company says that diabetes is a growing problem in China due to longer life expectancy, dietary changes and lack of exercise.

The new centre will employ 100 scientists and support staff, mostly hired from within China. Lilly says that, since the late 1990s, it has invested more than ¥2 billion (£190 million) in the country.

GSK moves to Fabry disease

UK pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and biotech Amicus have agreed to develop and commercialise together AmigalTM (migalastat hydrochloride), currently in Phase III for the treatment of Fabry disease.

Under the terms, GSK will pay Amicus $30 million (£19 million) upfront and up to $170 million for development and commercialisation milestones. In addition, Amicus will receive royalties on global sales. On top of this, GSK says it will buy 6.9 million Amicus shares for $31 million – $4.56 per share – representing a 19.9 per cent stake in the company.

The move brings GSK into a niche area currently dominated by Genzyme. The US biotech, which is under takeover pressure from Sanofi-Aventis, makes Fabrazyme (agalsidase beta) for the treatment of Fabry disease, a rare inherited condition. In June 2009, it suffered a set-back when a viral infection forced it to halt production of Fabrazyme at its Alston Landing site in Massachusetts, US. Since then, it has struggled to return to normal service. Fabrazyme sales fell 71 per cent to $34 million in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2009 due to ‘supply constraints’.

Pfizer recalls more Lipitor

Pfizer says it will recall two additional US lots – approximately 38,000 bottles – of the 40mg tablets of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), which generated global sales of $11.4 billion last year.

According to the company, customers have reported an ‘uncharacteristic’ smell, but ‘a medical assessment found the risk of health consequences to patients appears to be minimal’.

Pfizer recalled Lipitor lots in August and October due to odour. In the investigation it ran after the first recall, the company found 2, 4, 6-tribromoanisole (TBA) in a sample bottle. A wood preservative often applied to pallets for transport and storage called 2, 4, 6-tribromonophenol (TBP) could have been the source of the TBA, the company says. It has taken action in the response to the August recall, but the lots to be recalled this time were packaged and shipped before these changes went into effect in August of this year. However Pfizer is not expecting a product shortage as a result of the recall.

In September, Pfizer recalled one lot of its ThermaCare HeatWraps Menstrual product distributed in the United States and Puerto Rico. The company said at the time that components could leak, which would risk skin injury, such as irritation or burning.

Pfizer is by no means alone in this area. Recently, Johnson & Johnson has been hit by a spate of recalls affecting over-the-counter products, including the painkiller Tylenol (paracetamol) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Such recalls can be enormously expensive.

CHEMICAL

Dow bid for coal-to-chemicals project in China

US chemical major Dow, in collaboration with Shenhua, a coal company owned by the Chinese state, has submitted a project application report to build a ‘world-scale integrated complex of coal, power and chemicals’ in Yulin, China.

‘We are pleased to complete this important next step as we progress through the government approval process,’ said Peter Sykes, president of the Dow Greater China division.

RTOs add €50 billion to EU

Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) in Europe, such as the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in Germany, together contribute €50 billion (£43.6 million) to the EU economy, according to a new report. But despite this, they are poorly understood and national governments are not using them to their full potential, says the report, published by European research organisation the Technopolis Group. RTOs received 32 per cent of the funding available through the Sixth Framework Programme, it adds.

There are about 350 RTOs in Europe. They resemble universities, but focus on developing applied research and exploiting the science in industrial projects. They generally receive a mixture of public subsidy and industrial income and, with a combined workforce of more than 150,000 scientists, technicians and engineers, are an important source of employment in the region. The report was published on behalf of the European Trade Association of the Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO).

Andrew Turley

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