Dow Corning completes SEED complex – FDA approves Voraxaze – and fracking under fire on both sides of the Atlantic

CHEMICAL – Just a week after announcing that its new European distribution centre has been completed, US silicones and silicon-technology giant Dow Corning has also completed construction of its new research and development facility in Seneffe, Belgium. The €9 million (£7.5 million) investment is intended to advance the company’s research in solar cell efficiency and new silicon-based materials. The Solar Energy Exploration and Development (SEED) complex is designed as a showcase for some of Dow’s energy efficient technologies, and already houses some lab equipment. Dow Corning expects research activities to start in the first half of 2012.

CHEMICAL – Meanwhile, as part of a €1 million investment, German chemical major BASF plans to move TDI (toluene diisocyanate) manufacturing from Schwarzheid to Ludwigshafen, increasing annual production from 80,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes. As well as a new TDI production plant, the Ludwigshafen site will also be upgraded with new plants for the production of TDI precursors and the expansion of nitric acid, chlorine and syngas plants. BASF claims that the new plant will position the firm as the low cost producer of TDI in Europe.

PHARMACEUTICAL – The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Voraxaze (glucarpidase) from UK speciality drugmaker BTG. The drug, which treats patients with toxic blood levels of chemotherapy drug methotrexate due to kidney failure, was granted approval under priority review, a designation that is given to therapies that offer major advances in treatment or provide a treatment where there is no adequate alternative therapy. According to BTG, this is the first treatment that the firm has taken through to approval in the US.

PHARMACEUTICAL – Shares in Columbia Laboratories and Watson Pharmaceuticals have fallen sharply following an FDA review that said that the companies’ gel, Prochieve, for reducing the risk of premature birth does not work. The FDA panel of outside experts will vote on whether the drug should be approved on Friday, before the FDA’s final decision, which will be made by 26 February Reuters reports .

CHEMICAL – A record number of comments have been sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding a proposal to allow horizontal hydraulic fracking in the state. With more boxes still to be opened, the count currently stands at over 32,000 and may reach 40,000, a spokeswoman told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, in the UK, fracking is also proving unpopular with the public. After exploratory drilling in Lancashire was suspended after minor earth tremors, villagers from Balcombe in West Sussex turned on representatives of multinational oil and gas company Cuadrilla at a public meeting. The firm has acquired an exploration and development licence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but the meeting, which began with a video about fracking pollution in the US, ended with furious reactions from residents.

Laura Howes

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