PCSK9 inhibitors for cholesterol problems perform well – $500m for Ista – And light materials from Bayer

CHEMICALBASF says it is planning to sell its sports surfaces business, Conica, including the site at Schaffhausen in Switzerland. The business, which BASF bought from Degussa in 2006, makes materials for a wide range of sports surfaces including running tracks, gymnasium flooring and tennis courts. The growth opportunities for the business are outside Europe, says Tilman Krauch, head of the construction chemicals division. In addition, the business doesn’t link up well with BASF’s core activities. The Schaffhausen site employs 150 people. Of those, half work in the sports surfaces business.

PHARMACEUTICALSanofi has reported Phase II data for a new drug candidate for lowering cholesterol levels in patients already taking statins. Over an 8-12 week period, the candidate reduced low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol – by 40-72%, compared with 5% for placebo treatment. The 183 patients in the trial all had high levels of LDL cholesterol despite taking atorvastatin (the generic name for Pfizer’s Lipitor). The candidate (SAR236553/REGN727) is a monoclonal antibody, administered by injection, that targets the PCSK9 enzyme. If approved would be a first-in-class drug. It was created by US drugmaker Regeneron – which started working with Sanofi in this area in 2007, and in 2009 signed a $160 million (£100 million at current exchange rates) licensing deal.

PHARMACEUTICAL – Meanwhile, Amgen has reported Phase I data for its own monoclonal antibody PCSK9 inhibitor (AMG145), also aimed at lowering cholesterol levels in patients taking statins. In a 51 patient study, AMG145 reduced LDL cholesterol by up to 75% when taken every two weeks over a six week period by patients already taking ‘low to moderate’ doses of statins. The reductions in LDL cholesterol levels were lower for patients taking high doses of statins.

PHARMACEUTICAL – US eye drug company Bausch & Lomb has signed a cash deal to buy US drugmaker Ista Pharmaceuticals for $9.10 per share, equivalent to $500 million. Ista currently sells four products, including treatments for eye inflammation, pain brought on by cataract surgery, glaucoma and conjunctivitis. The two companies know each other well: Bausch & Lomb already manufactures most of the products Ista sells in the US. The deal follows a hostile bid from Canadian pharma company Valeant, which put forward a $7.50 per share cash deal, worth $410 million, in January but later took itself out of the bidding citing ‘lack of progress’.

CHEMICAL Bayer has launched a lightweight material designed to replace steel in railway locomotive and carriage construction. The company says that reducing weight has long been a key aim for automotive manufacturers, who are interested in reducing fuel consumption. But thanks to rising fuel costs, it is becoming important for companies that make trains as well. Bayer says that the sandwich polyurethane material, which it has demonstrated in a case study for housing diesel engines, is 35% lighter and 30% cheaper than steel and aluminium alternatives. The parts of the material are synthesised directly using a spray and press process.

Andrew Turley

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