FDA approves skin cancer drug Zelboraf – Pfizer site at Sandwich becomes part of new ’Enterprise Zone’  – And vaccine markets on the up

PHARMACEUTICAL – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Zelboraf for treating late stage melanomas, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The drug was developed by Plexxicon and specifically targets cells expressing a genetic mutation called BRAF. The drug is an example of so-called personalised medicine and approved in conjunction with a diagnostic test for the mutation, which Plexxicon says is present in about half of melanoma cases. The Daiichi Sankyo group, of which owns Plexxicon, and Genetech will promote the drug together in the US. Roche agreed to pay $40 million (£24 million) upfront and $6 million in research funding, plus up to $660 million for milestones passed, in 2006 to team up with Plexxicon on BRAF proteins.

CHEMICAL – Nike has committed to eliminating the release of harmful chemicals during the manufacture of its products within the next 25 years. They say they will announce a detailed, transparent action plan for this in the next eight weeks, highlighting the need to work with green chemical companies in order to achieve this. 

PHARMACEUTICAL – The global market for vaccines grew 15 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to a new report by market research firm Kalorama Information. The authors predict it will continue to grow by approximately nine per cent per year until 2016, highlighting the strong vaccine development pipeline that many large companies currently have.

CHEMICAL – Industrial serices giant Harsco has struck a strategic alliance with Lanzatech, which claims to be the first company to develop a way to produce fuel grade ethanol from flue gasses. Lanzatech says the process it has been developing since 2005 is attractive because of its flexibility: it can be applied to most waste gasses containing carbon monoxide, including those from steel blast furnaces, coal production plants and oil refineries.

CHEMICAL – Evergreen Solar, manufacturer of silicon wafers for use in solar energy applications, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company has reportedly been in difficulty for some time, blaming cheaper competition from China. According to news reports the company now plans to auction itself to the raise the $486 million needed to pay its debts.

PHARMACEUTICAL – Pfizer R&D site at Sandwich, UK, recently renamed Discovery Park, will become one of 11 new ’Enterprise Zones’, benefiting from tax breaks and reduced planning regulations to encourage investment. In February, Pfizer said it would close the site leading to the loss of 2400 jobs, but more recently it decided to retain some operations (involving some 350  staff) at the site.  Pfizer, Kent County Council and the Environment Agency will contribute £25 million to augment sea defences surounding the site. The government expects the measures to attract other companies to the area.

Josh Howgego

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