PHARMACEUTICAL

Biogen cuts jobs

US biotech Biogen Idec is planning to cut 650 jobs, a 13 per cent reduction of its full time workforce. The company is also planning to shut down its cardiovascular business and either spin-out or out-license its oncology business, while focusing on neurology. Through these changes, the company expects to save $300 million (£180 million) annually, including $85 million from the job cuts.

EMA seeks new boss

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is recruiting for a new executive director. The agency evaluates applications for marketing authorisation in the EU for human and animal medicines. Interested candidates have until 24 November 2010 to submit their application to the European Commission. Executive director Thomas Lönngren will leave the EMA on 31 December 2010, following the expiry of his second five-year mandate. Head of administration Andreas Pott will be the acting executive director from 1 January 2011 until a replacement is appointed.

Cymbalta approved for pain

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride) to combat chronic musculoskeletal pain in, for example, patients with osteoarthritis. Cymbalta is a small molecule drug marketed by Eli Lilly thought to increase the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine, substances that occur naturally in the brain and spinal cord. It is approved in the US against depression, anxiety, pain associated with diabetes and fibromyalgia. In 2009, it made sales of $3.1 billion – 14 per cent of total sales – for the US pharma giant, making it the second highest yielding product for the company behind Zyprexa (olanzapine), for the treatment of psychotic disorders.

Bayer buys Bomac

Chemical and healthcare company Bayer will acquire New Zealand animal health company Bomac – the two have signed a purchase agreement. The main focus of Bomac is on the treatment of mastitis in dairy cattle and parasiticides in sheep. Bayer has not disclosed any financial information.

CHEMICAL

EC suggests phosphates ban

The European Commission has proposed a ban on the use of phosphates in laundry detergents. Phosphates are used in detergents to aid cleaning, particularly in hard water but in rivers and surface waters, phosphates, like nitrates, can lead to eutrophication, when the high nutrient levels can boost algal growth at the expense of other organisms. Therefore, they are removed at waste water treatment plants. According to the EC, this process is costly and not all plants in the EU have the necessary technology. Cost-efficient alternatives for laundry detergents are available, it says. 

‘The Commission’s proposal to ban phosphates in laundry detergents will ensure that European citizens benefit from an increased water quality of their lakes, rivers and marine waters while keeping European companies at the forefront of this sector,’ said EC vice-president Antonio Tajani. ‘The Commission will keep under review industry’s progress in the development of technically and economically viable alternatives for automatic dishwasher detergents through innovation.’ If approved by the EU, the ban would go live at the start of 2013. It would not include dishwasher detergents or detergents for professional use, although it would also limit the content of other phosphorous containing compounds.

Arkema investment

French chemical giant Arkema will build a new production line as part of a €30 million (£26 million) investment in its Carling, France, site. The new line, a replacement for an old one, will make dimethyl amino ethyl acrylate (DMAEA), an acrylic acid derivative used as a base for wastewater treatment flocculants. The company says it will increase site capacity by 30 per cent.

Total coal-to-chemicals plan

French oil supermajor Total has said it will collaborate with China Power Investment (CPI) on a ‘coal-based petrochemical’ plant in China. The two companies have signed a ‘letter of understanding’. They will now test the feasibility of a 1Mt per year polyolefins production site, based on methanol produced from the gasification of coal. The plant is due to start production after 2015 and investment is estimated at €2-3 billion euros.

Andrew Turley

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