US loans $405 million to biofuel projects

The US Department of Agriculture has awarded $405 million (£250 million) in loans to three cellulosic ethanol projects. The largest loan, of $250 million, will go towards a biorefinery from US company Coskata that will use woody biomass to make ethanol. In addition, Canadian biofuel company Enerkem will receive $80 million for a biorefinery that uses municipal solid waste and Ineos New Planet BioEnergy – a joint venture of UK chemical major Ineos and New Planet Energy – will receive $75 million for a biorefinery that uses vegetable, yard and wood waste, as well as municipal solid waste.

US committee gives negative opinion on Amyvid

A US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee has voted against recommending approval of Amyvid (florbetapir), a molecular imaging tool from US drugmaker Eli Lilly. Amyvid is for positron emission tomography (PET) detection of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which is thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly acquired the technology when it bought Avid Radiopharmaceuticals in December 2010 in deal worth up to $800 million. A decision from the FDA will follow.

Celanese invests $600billion in new ethanol plants in China

Technology and materials company Celanese says it is planning to build two new ethanol production plants in China: one in Nanjing and the other in Zhuhai. It says it will spend $600 million on the plants, which will use ‘newly developed advanced technology’ that combines the Celanese acetyl ‘platform’ with technology for the production of ethanol from hydrocarbon feedstocks. According to Celanese, demand for industrial ethanol in China is at 3 million tonnes per year and growing at a rate of 8-10 per cent per year.

Roche skin cancer candidate increases survival

Roche says that its Phase III study of RG7204 for the treatment of skin cancer has returned ‘promising results’. The Brim3 study included 675 patients with metastatic melanomas – skin cancer that has begun to spread to the rest of the body – and a mutation in a gene called BRAF, which plays a role in cell proliferation. Mutations in residue 600 of the BRAF protein are found in 50 per cent of melanomas. The researchers found that RG7204 increased overall survival, according to Roche. Full data will be presented at a medical meeting later this year.

RG7204 is an oral small molecule candidate taken orally designed to inhibit the mutated form of the BRAF protein from US drug discovery company Plexxikon. In 2006, Roche agreed to pay $40 million upfront and $6 million in research funding, plus up to $660 million for milestones passed, to team up with the company on the candidate.

DSM makes Russian caprolactam foray

Dutch life and material sciences company DSM is planning two joint ventures in Russia with Russian chemical company KuibyshevAzot (KA). The two companies will work together on the marketing and selling of engineering plastics in Russia and nearby states and production of engineering plastics at a site in Togliatti, Russia. Under the terms of the deal, DSM cyclohexanone technology will be integrated with KA activities at the Togliatti caprolactam plant and KA will be granted a license to use DSM fibre intermediates technology for the production of cyclohexanone. Caprolactam is used to make polycaprolactam, also known as nylon 6, which is widely used as a base for synthetic fibres, including for example textiles, ropes and brush bristles. DSM also intends to acquire an 80 per cent stake in the engineering plastics compounding plant at the Togliatti site. It says this will make it ‘the first western [polycaprolactam] supplier with its own manufacturing presence in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States’. The companies have not disclosed financial details. KuibyshevAzot employs 5300 staff and made sales of RUB16 billion (£300 million) in 2009.

Green glue for compostable packaging

German chemical company BASF says it has won certification for ‘the first compostable water based adhesive’. According to the company, in its composting tests, at least 90 per cent of the glue was broken down after 70 days. Possible applications include bags for potato crisps and chocolate bar wrappers.

Andrew Turley

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