MS drug fails late stage clinical trials - Contractors at fault in chemical fire – And Dow to pay $2.5 million to settle pollution violations

PHARMACEUTICAL - Astra Zeneca has announced that it has secured approval for Axanum in 23 European countries. This single pill therapy contains a mixture of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and esomeprazole. Patients who follow an extended course of aspirin for prevention of cardiovascular problems are often prone to gastric ulcers, but the addition of esomeprazole offers built-in protection from gastric ulcers. Individual national approvals and pricing discussions will follow this initial agreement.

PHARMACEUTICAL - Generic drug maker Teva has announced that its oral multiple sclerosis (MS) medicine, laquinimod, has failed the second round of late stage clinical trials. Although the drug performed well in the first round of trials, the latest study found that seizures in patients were only reduced by 17 per cent compared with a placebo – not a statistically significant result. Teva say that it still plans to submit the drug for US Food and Drug Administration approval early in 2012.

CHEMICAL – An investigation into a large fire at the site of the aerosol maker Aztec Chemicals in Crewe, Cheshire, has concluded that two local companies - Pakawaste and Greenway Environmental - were at fault and not Aztec. Local news organisations covering the court hearing report that both companies pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Fire Industry Association report the companies will pay almost £225,000 in fines between them. The fire, which occurred in early June, caused widespread destruction and was the result of an explosion of an aerosol can shredding machine.

PHARMACEUTICAL – Merck is reported to be closing their RNAi facility in San Francisco, which they acquired just five years ago at a cost of $1.1 billion (£671 million). Other pharmaceutical companies have recently been pulling out of RNAi technologies, but Merck say they’re not following suit, but instead have integrated the technology into other research programs. About 50 jobs will be lost, with 10 scientists being offered transfers to other facilities.

CHEMICAL – Amyris has announced it has entered into a contract with Antibióticos to manufacture farnesene at its facilities in León, Spain. Farnesene, which the company trades as Biofene, is a sesquiterpene which Amyris will produce by fermenting sugars. Farnesene may be used to replace butadiene and isoprene as feedstocks in commodity polymer and rubber synthesis.

Farnesene can be used as an alternative to isoprene in polymer synthesis

PHARMACEUTICAL – Oxtexs, a new spin out company, has secured £365,000 of funding from Isis Innovation – the University of Oxford technology transfer office – to develop synthetic tissue made from an intelligent hydrogel. Isis claim that the material will, for the first time, allow surgeons to control the direction, timing and rate of expansion of synthetic tissue. This will mean the material is suitable for higher risk procedures and for use in children.

CHEMICAL – Dow Chemical will pay $2.5 million (£1.5 million) to settle a federal pollution case. Dow announced the settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, saying its non-compliance was mainly due to different interpretations of regulations and that the firm had taken immediate action to make corrections. Dow will also implement a programme to reduce volatile emissions and step up its monitoring for leaks.

Josh Howgego

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