CHEMICAL: Ashland buys ISP for $3.2 billion

US chemical company Ashland and International Specialty Products (ISP) have agreed to a deal that will see Ashland buy ISP for $3.2 billion (£2 billion) in cash.

In the year ending 31 March 2011, ISP generated sales of $1.6 billion. Ashland says that it expects the deal to ‘significantly strengthen’ its patent portfolio and team of R&D scientists.

The move brings Ashland further into the speciality chemicals arena. Its products include water soluble polymers and additives for a wide range of markets, notably the personal care and pharmaceutical markets. In recent years, Ashland has moved away from its roots in petrochemicals and chemical distribution and toward speciality chemicals. In 2008, it bought Hercules, which made chemicals for the pulp and paper industry, for $3.3 billion. In 2010, it sold its global distribution business for $930 million and entered into a joint venture with speciality chemical company Süd-Chemie involving chemicals for the foundry industry.

The market reacted strongly to the deal, with the Ashland share price increasing 12 per cent in the immediate aftermath.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Teva tackles neutropenia

Israeli generics giant Teva says that it has some good data on its biosimilar candidate CG-10639. Specifically, it says CG-10639 is at least as good as pegfilgrastim for the prevention of neutropenia – deficiency of white blood cells – caused by chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer.

Pegfilgrastim is marketed as Neulasta by US biotech Amgen. In 2010, Neulasta made sales of $3.6 billion – so this is clearly a profitable market for the right drug.

Is CG-10639 going to grab a chunk of that market? I think it’s an interesting candidate. Pegfligrastim is based on filgrastim, an analogue of a hormone called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, which plays an important role in making white blood cells.

Specifically, pegfligrastim is filgrastim that has been ‘pegylated’ – had polyethylene glycol (PEG) attached. Why would you attach a bulky polymer group to a drug molecule? The idea is to mask the drug from the body’s immune system so that it hangs around for longer.

A same idea is applied in CG-10639, but albumin is used instead of PEG. The technology came from Human Genome Sciences, via CoGenysis, which it spun out in 2006. Teva bought CoGenysis for $400 million in 2008, gaining CG-10639 (called Neugranin at the time) in the process.

Teva will present the Phase II and III data at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which starts on 3 June.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Round one to Amylin in legal fight

US pharma company Eli Lilly has been hit with a temporary restraining order from the US courts in relation to a legal row with Amylin over a drug for the treatment of diabetes.

Specifically, the court order prevents Lilly from using of the same sales force to sell both exenatide and linagliptin. Indeed, it prevents Lilly from disclosing any confidential information about exenatide to any of its sales representatives or employees involved in the marketing, promotion or sale of linagliptin.

What’s all this about? Amylin says Lilly has dropped the ball by entering into a development and commercialisation deal with Boehringer Ingelheim in January.

The deal relates to linagliptin, marketed as Tradjenta, which Amylin says is in direct competition with it’s drug, exenatide, marketed as Byetta and Bydureon. And Lilly already has a development and commercialisation deal with Amylin relating to exenatide, a deal struck in 2002. Amylin says the conflict of interest generated is a violation of its deal.

‘We believe that Amylin’s allegations against Lilly are entirely without merit and we fully expect to prevail in this litigation,’ said Robert Armitage, senior vice president and general counsel at Lilly.

CHEMICAL: China bans BPA in baby bottles

China has banned the use of the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in the production of feeding bottles for babies, according to its official press agency. In addition, the import and sale of bottles containing BPA will be banned from 1 September. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the EU ban on BPA in baby bottles has now come into effect.

BPA has been the subject of widespread debate in recent years due to reports that exposure is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and reproductive disorders in humans.

Andrew Turley

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