Ashland and Süd-Chemie joint venture

German speciality chemical company Süd-Chemie and US speciality company Ashland have combined their activities in the area of chemicals for the foundry industry. Each company holds a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, ASK Chemicals, which is based in Hilden, Germany and employs 1300 staff. A wide range of chemicals, such as additives, catalysts and coatings, are used in foundries, which produce metal castings using moulds.  

New Lanxess plant in India

German specialty chemicals company Lanxess has opened a new plant for ion exchange resins in India. Lanxess is best known as a manufacturer of synthetic rubber for tyres. The plant is located in Jhagadia in Gujarat and has an annual capacity of 35,000 metric tons. Lanxess says it has invested about €50 million (£43 million) in the site, which already has a rubber chemicals production plant that the company took over in March. Ion exchange resins are used for water treatment in power generation, microelectronics production and the industries for drinking water and food preparation. 

Merck & Co invests in ‘smart’ insulin

US drugmaker Merck & Co has agreed to buy SmartCells, a US biotech working on a ‘smart’ insulin product for the treatment of diabetes designed to respond to blood glucose levels. SmartCells shareholders will receive an upfront cash payment and additional payments totalling up to $500 million (£320 million) if key goals on the route to commercialisation of the product are achieved. The company says the approach could lead to a reduced risk of blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes falling to dangerously low levels. 

EPA starts screening 700 more ToxCast chemicals

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started screening a further 700 chemicals as part of its ToxCast programme. The agency screened 300 chemicals – mostly pesticides – for human and environmental toxicity in the first phase. The programme is designed to introduce a new approach based on human and animal cell and protein assays. The agency says that once it is fully implemented it will speed up chemical screening and improve the prediction and identification of potential health risks. It is needed because ‘only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce’ have been adequately tested using tradition animal toxicity tests, which are slow and expensive. The 700 chemicals are found in industrial and consumer products, food additives and drugs that never made it to the market. 

Meanwhile, a milestone in European chemical legislation was came and went this week with the first registration deadline for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (Reach) regulation. No doubt legislators in the US will have been paying close attention.

Diabetes growing in China

The market for type 2 diabetes drugs in China will grow from $1.4 billion in 2009 to $2.5 billion in 2014, according to a new report. The expansion is driven by a range of causes, says the report from market research company Decision Resources. The proportion of the population seeking drugs is growing, medical insurance coverage is also on the up and new drugs are being successfully launched into the market with good uptake levels.

‘China now has the largest type 2 diabetes patient population in the world and is the third largest market for type 2 diabetes agents, behind the United States and Japan,’ said Decision Resources Analyst Jing Wu. ‘The type 2 diabetes market in China will continue to grow between 2009 and 2014 at an annual rate of 13 percent, which is faster than expected growth in the United States or Japan.’

Andrew Turley

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