Mathew Wilkinson


There is no ‘significant relationship’ between the numbers of graduates from Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and economic growth, according to a recent study conducted by Paul Whiteley, professor of politics at the University of Essex, UK.

© European community, 2006

The results fly in the face of pronouncements made by Lord Mandelson in January, when he was the UK’s business secretary, that Stem graduates would be ‘crucial in securing future prosperity’.

According to an article by Ann Mroz in the Times Higher Education, ‘the government is mistaken to continue arguing that science graduates alone are the key to delivering economic growth’. She also welcomes Whiteley’s analysis that shows that while increased numbers of Stem graduates  do not correlate to increased economic growth, the total number of graduates – regardless of which subject they study – does influence economic growth.

(more…)

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baby-care

Despite having fallen off most people’s radars, the Chinese baby milk crisis appears to still be continuing after Chinese police arrested six people for adulterating milk powder with melamine. A further 41 people have been detained for allegedly participating in the production and distribution of melamine-tainted milk powder and 227 tonnes of milk powder were seized.

The crisis came to light in 2008 when children in China were poisoned by the contaminated milk. According to Chinese state-run media more than 300,000 children were poisoned and at least six died.

(more…)

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While the pharmaceutical industry is teetering on the edge of a patent cliff that looks set to erode over $60 billion (£39 billion) off the industry’s annual sales, the once overlooked vaccine market looks set to help make up for some of those losses.

According to a new report by healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information, the vaccine market is predicted to increase by almost 10 per cent per year during the next 5 years. The authors of the report, Vaccines 2010: World Market Analysis, Key Players, and Critical Trends in a Fast-Changing Industry, state that the paediatric market will continue to outpace the adult market due to the rapid uptake of pneumococcal and ‘combination’ DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccines.

(more…)

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bayer

It seems that carbon nanotubes are making waves everywhere these days, and in collaboration with kayak manufacturer Re-Turn, Bayer MaterialScience could soon be making waves in the ocean.

By coating the outer skin of kayaks and canoes with carbon nanotubes, the hull becomes much more resilient to abrasion and damage from UV light. (more…)

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With the economic crisis slowly and shakily retreating, consumption is starting to increase again with Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) growing by 2.2 per cent in the three months to the end of June – its fastest quarter-on-quarter growth in more than 20 years.

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And while that’s good news for many, increased consumption can only lead to more pollution – something the members of the upcoming Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)  are sure to be unhappy about. However, on 26 August 2010 the convention will be celebrating the addition of nine chemicals to the annexes of the convention which should lead to the reduction or elimination of their use.

The chemicals in question are: alpha hexachlorocyclohexane; beta hexachlorocyclohexane; chlordecone; hexabromobiphenyl; hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial octabromodiphenyl ether); lindane; pentachlorobenzene; perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooactane sulfonyl fluoride; and tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether.

As part of the ceremony, a video link with the Sea Dragon, a monitoring boat anchored in Brazil, will be established so they can report on the extent of drifting plastic pollution and POP levels found in deepwater fish in the South Atlantic Ocean. (more…)

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US-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals has released results from a Phase III clinical trial of its experimental hepatitis C therapy, telaprevir, that show it can cure 72 per cent of previously untreated patients – many of them in six weeks less than the standard 48 week treatment regime.

That reduction in time could prove to be a key selling point for the drug as many patients suffer from unpleasant side effects from the standard treatment, which more often than not fails to cure the condition. However, the drug still needs to be taken with the standard treatment which combines alpha interferon with the general antiviral therapy ribavarin.

The results seem to position Vertex’s therapy ahead of Merck & Co.’s competitor, boceprevir, but regardless of which drug turns out to be more effective HCV sufferers are likely to have a better prognosis if either drug successfully makes it to market – and that could be early next year. (more…)

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According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Prescription Project health policy think tank 69 per cent of Americans believe that contamination of prescription drugs is a ‘serious problem’. This compares to 83 per cent of respondents believing that toys made with unsafe materials are a serious problem.

Interestingly, 78 per cent of those asked said they were confident that drugs made in the US were free from contamination.. However, respondents said they had ‘no confidence in drugs from India and China’, with 70 per cent saying they were worried about contamination in drugs made in China, while 54 per cent said the same about drugs originating in India.

69 per cent of those asked thought that foreign factories need to be inspected at least once every 2 years, echoing calls made by the European Fine Chemicals group for greater inspection of Asian active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturers. (more…)

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It would seem that things are looking up for BP after the company announced it had reached a ‘significant milestone’ in its efforts to permanently seal the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The ‘static kill’ operation has seen the company pump heavy drilling mud into the well which is now stopping the oil from escaping the well head.

And just days after the US government released new estimates of how much oil – around 4.9 billion barrels in total – had been released into the Gulf Mexico, scientists have said that almost three quarters has already been cleaned up or broken down.

‘The scientists are telling us about 25 per cent was not captured or evaporated or taken care of by mother nature,’ said Carol Browner, White House energy adviser, on the ABC television network, before adding that more cleanup will still be necessary.

Despite the successes of the past 24 hours, the embattled company has decided to carry on with its divestment plans and agreed to sell its Columbian oil and gas exploration, production and transportation business for $1.9 billion (£1.2 billion). The business will be sold to a consortium of Ecopetrol – Colombia’s national oil company – and Talisman of Canada.

But it is not all good news for BP, as the oil giant has been hit with a $10 billion lawsuit related to an alleged leak of toxic chemicals at its Texas City refinery earlier this year. Tony Buzbee filed the class lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,200 named plaintiffs who allege that more than ‘538,000 pounds (244,000 kg) of toxic chemicals, including benzene’ were released from the refinery over a 40 day period. (more…)

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Times are changing for BP, and due to the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico the company has just reported a record quarterly loss for a British company, prompting the board to decide it was time for a new chief executive and that it needed to sell off more of its assets to pay for the spill.

Despite the bad publicity the company has been receiving, its underlying performance was very positive with second quarter sales reaching $73.7 billion (£47.2 billion), a 34 per cent increase compared to its sales during the same period in 2009. But a $32.2 billion charge relating to the Gulf of Mexico spill more than wiped out its operating profits and caused the company to record a net loss for the quarter of $17.2 billion.

This has led the company to increase the scale of its asset sale programme from $10 billion to $30 billion over the next 18 months which ‘will leave the company with a smaller but higher quality exploration and production business’.

As of the start of October, Tony Hayward, the incumbent chief executive, is to be replaced by Robert Dudley an executive director at the company and former president of its TNK-BP joint venture in Russia.

‘The tragedy of the Macondo well explosion and subsequent environmental damage has been a watershed incident,’ said BP’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.

‘BP remains a strong business with fine assets, excellent people and a vital role to play in meeting the world’s energy needs. But it will be a different company going forward, requiring fresh leadership supported by robust governance and a very engaged board.’ (more…)

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It’s financials season again, and while the majority of pharamceutical and chemical companies seem to be relatively optimistic about the future, some doubt remains about the strength of the recovery. Earlier today, the UK’s Office for National Statistics announced that the UK’s economy grew by 1.1 per cent between April and June 2010 – the fastest quarterly expansion by the UK since 2006. (more…)

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