Mathew Wilkinson


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Clean technology and life science companies in the US have been reaping the rewards of increasing investment from venture capitalists (VCs) in the first half of 2010, according to the MoneyTree report from consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital association (NVCA). More than $11.4 billion (£7.5 billion) was invested in the first 6 months of the year – a 49 per cent increase compared to the first half of 2009 when only $7.7 billion was invested.

Investment in clean technologies doubled in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the first 3 months of the year – breaking the quarterly record for the sector and reaching $1.5 billion. Life sciences companies saw VC investment increase 52 per cent to $2.1 billion compared to the first quarter of the year.

‘As the exit market begins to show signs of life, VCs are now able to look increasingly at new investments outside their existing portfolio. This dynamic translates into momentum in the seed and early stage sectors where valuations remain reasonable and opportunities are great,’ says Mark Heesen, president of NVCA.

‘Investment in the clean technology and life sciences sectors, which are generally longer term and more capital intensive in nature, are balanced by smaller deals within the information technology sectors creating a diversity of opportunities for success for entrepreneurs, VCs and limited partners alike.’ (more…)

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This week has seen two UK-based companies come under increased scrutiny in the US. BP’s latest attempt to close off the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has, so far, proved to be successful, with the well integrity test still ongoing. The company has said that ‘currently the well remains shut-in with no oil flowing into the Gulf’ and that the pressure in the well head is continuing to rise and is currently at 6700 psi.

Meanwhile, the safety of  GlaxoSmithKline’s type 2 diabetes therapy Avandia (rosiglitazone) has been being scrutinised by a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, see here for more details. (more…)

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The world of plastics is not often considered to  be particularly fast paced, but Bayer has shown that viewpoint to be a fallacy, by providing the polycarbonate for the new transparent (and removable) panoramic roof for the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, which can reach speeds of over 400 km/h.

‘To make the roof easy to handle and also reduce its weight significantly, we opted to use Makrolon in our design. This polycarbonate from Bayer MaterialScience is an established material for the series production of lightweight automotive glazing,’ said Daniel Starmann, glazing project manager in Bugatti’s exterior engineering department.

The roof material contains filters that remove infra red and ultra violet radiation from sunlight and minimise solar warming of the car as well as reducing the chances of sunburn (compared with not having a roof) – ensuring you always look cool when getting out of one of the fastest and most expensive cars ever made! (more…)

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With much of the world eagerly anticipating Sunday’s deciding match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup between Spain and the Netherlands, Total Petrochemicals has taken the opportunity to announce ‘a significant advance in the manufacture of synthetic turf for football pitches’.

That advance comes in the form of a new grade of Total’s Lumicene M3427 polyethylene metallocene polymer that enables the manufacture of synthetic turf fibres that meet the highest Fifa recommended 2 star standard. According to Total, the Lumicene fibres ‘are superior to those produced with octane LLDPE type polyethylene as presently used on the market’.

Fifa believes that large parts of the world will soon be playing exclusively on synthetic pitches, which can be played on 24 hours a day, seven days a week especially in places where climate conditions make it difficult to maintain grass pitches – I wonder if the groundsmen at Wembley stadium are taking note after all the problems they have had maintaining that pitch. (more…)

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Even as the pharmaceutical sector approaches a patent cliff that will wipe over $63 billion (£42 billion) off industry revenues with a lack new products to fill that void, and with countries across the world trying desperately to keep their bills for medicines down, the pharmaceutical sector looks as if it could be heading for a perfect storm.

And with regulators in the EU and US targeting the ‘pay-for-delay’ deals that slow the entry of generics onto the market that storm is being made even worse.

Now, in response to a new report on the monitoring of settlements in the pharmaceutical sector, the EU’s antitrust commission has welcomed a decrease in the number of ‘potentially problematic’ patent settlements in the EU pharma sector.

‘Patent settlements are an effective means to end patent-related disputes and litigation. Nobody disputes this. However, some of them may be anticompetitive,’ said Joaquín Almunia, commission vice president in charge of competition policy.

‘Our report appears to show the sector’s increased awareness of the potential competition concerns, but the commission will remain attentive to ensure that the sale of safe, affordable medicines is not delayed by unfair practices. This is all the more important in times of crisis and of serious budgetary constraints.’ (more…)

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All across Europe, governments have been announcing austerity measures aimed at reducing their budget deficits. Much of the media focus has (rightly) been on the human costs of these cuts, as well as whether removing the stimulus measures that have propped up the financial and automotive industries (to name but a few) will cause Europe to fall back into recession.

With budgets shrinking, more pressure will no doubt be brought to bear on the price of medicines. But cutting the prices that pharmaceutical companies can charge for their drugs ‘will severely reduce the number of new medications making it to market’, according to a report by the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT).

The independent report – commissioned by Novartis – warns that ‘European governments predominantly see pharmaceutical pricing models as a tool for cost control in the public health sector, but may not to the same extent acknowledge its implication on product value and, hence, on the development of new drugs’.

The study, which used a unique simulation of a representative pharmaceutical firm’s decision-making process, identified a link between strict regulation and low innovation. The model predicts the new medications likely to be hit hardest under tough pricing regulation include antibiotics, therapeutics for cardiovascular disease and immune system disorders such as multiple sclerosis and chronic meningitis.

‘Our study shows the consequences that pricing and reimbursement regulation can have on pharmaceutical innovation. It also shows that, incorrectly applied, regulation can reduce the value of pharmaceutical projects and curtail the resources available to carry them out,’ said Hans Friederiszick of ESMT Competition Analysis.

‘Rational investors will naturally look for the most profitable investment choices, which is why regulation has a direct impact on the number and characteristics of the medications developed.’ (more…)

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The UK’s Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) second report to government has warned that despite the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions falling by 1.9 per cent in 2008 and 8.6 per cent in 2009, the country needs to do more as those falls were largely due to the recession and an increase in the cost of fuel.

Many in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are worrying that meeting stricter and stricter emission control limits will hinder the UK and Europe’s competitiveness against less regulated locales.

So it is perhaps a surprise that health and personal care company Unilever has just topped the FTSE CDP carbon strategy 350 index carbon management league table, and that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has come in ninth. The index ‘aims to support investors in incorporating climate change risks into their investment strategy’ and ‘features future-oriented criteria that assess the exposure of individual companies to higher future costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions’.

Among the other companies in the top ten are telecommunications company BT, aerospace and automotive experts Rolls Royce and mobile phone firm Vodafone. Supermarket chains Morrison’s and Tesco also make the top ten along with clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer. (more…)

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cell interface-dreamstime_9166178

Ever since researchers started to dream of uncovering the ‘complete’ genetic makeup of an organism – the genome – the number of ‘omes‘ has been increasing at a staggering rate.

Now this isn’t anything to do with Hinduism and the symbol Om (although its link to the unknowable is perhaps at times somewhat poignant). The story started with the biome – any major regional biological community such as that of a forest or desert – and slowly started to spread to other fields.

So now we have genomes, proteomes, transcriptomes, interactomes – the list is seemingly endless.  And now researchers from pharma giant Eli Lilly have defined yet another ‘ome’ this time the fermentome. They describe the fermentome as a way of quantifying the ‘non-protein feed components and metabolites in mammalian cell cultures’. (more…)

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With all the attention on the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the cost of environmental disasters has risen to new highs of awareness. So after the conviction of eight former Union Carbide employees of ‘causing death by criminal negligence’ in the 1968 Bhopal gas disaster it is perhaps no surprise that the victims have been offered a new compensation package from the Indian government.

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The latest $280 million (£187 million) payout will double the compensation received by families of the dead and others suffering health problems. But the move has been criticised by campaign group Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) for not going far enough as ‘only’ 45,000 people will receive payouts – and not the second and third generation individuals who BGIA believes are still being harmed by persistent pollutants in the region. (more…)

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European pharmaceutical companies still lead their US-rivals when it comes to making medicines available to people in developing countries, but according to the second Access to Medicine (ATM) Index the gap is shrinking.

UK-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) tops the pile in improving access to needed medicines, followed by Merck & Co., Novartis, Gilead and Sanofi-Aventis.

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The 2010 index showed six of the ten highest ranking companies were based in Europe, while in the 2008 index seven European companies featured in the top ten.

‘Pioneering new ways to increase the access and affordability of our medicines and vaccines is the defining issue for our industry, especially for those least able to pay,’ a spokesperson for GSK told Chemistry World.

‘We are delighted that our approach has been recognised by the ATM index and will ensure that we continue to seek new and innovative ways to meet the expectations of patients across poorer, middle-income and developed countries.’ (more…)

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