Business digest

C&I Issue 3, 2024

Read time: 5 mins

Microorganisms that can ‘clean the planet’ are the focus of a new £13m innovation centre. The Environmental Biotechnology Innovation Centre (EBIC), led by Cranfield University, brings together scientists from ten UK universities to advance the abilities of microorganisms to monitor the environment and remove pollutants. The new centre is being established with funding from the Technology Missions Fund of UK Research and Innovation, with support from the BBSRC. The research team will develop new ways to tackle: next-generation biosensing; bioremediation; and enhanced wastewater and waste management. One of the research areas will invesigate new microbial processes for producing powerful biosurfactants to clean up environmental sites contaminated with toxic chemical pollutants. Such engineering biology is identified as one of the UK Government’s five critical technologies in its Science and Technology Framework.

Finnish dairy products manufacturer Valio is launching a five-year research, development and innovation project called Food 2.0. Its goal is to create a nature-smart food system in which growth, profitability and added value are built on the basis of sustainable production. The Food 2.0 project has been granted €10m funding in Business Finland’s challenge competition. Business Finland is a Finnish government organisation for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion. The various research projects and other outputs of the Food 2.0 project will focus on four themes: future products, technology transformation, regenerative production, and circular economy and resource efficiency.

Dutch paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel has completed expansion of its largest powder coatings plant in Como, Italy. Four new manufacturing lines are now operational following the €21m project – two of them dedicated to automotive primers and two to architectural coatings.

US pharma Bristol Myers Squibb and clinical-stage radiopharmaceutical therapeutics company RayzeBio have announced a definitive merger agreement under which Bristol Myers Squibb will acquire RayzeBio for a total equity value of approximately $4.1bn. RayzeBio has a pipeline of development programmes targeting the treatment of solid tumours, including gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, small cell lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and other cancers.

The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has set up a £42.5m research partnership to develop new materials. The Defence Materials Centre of Excellence (DMEx) will bring together UK experts in a national effort to accelerate advances in defence material technology for extreme physical environments. DMEx will research, create and prototype new materials for the armed forces that can survive in the harshest conditions, such as temperatures of 1000°C, polar to tropical operations, high impact vibrations, shock, blasts and extreme water depth. Applications range from body armour to the protection of sensitive electronics in satellites from radiation damage, and corrosion-resistant submarine components. The Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials, which operates its hub at the University of Manchester, will lead the centre of excellence with 23 other partners from academia, industry and research organisations such as the Catapult Network.

Synthekine, a US cytokine therapeutics company has announced a collaboration with French pharma Sanofi to develop and commercialise IL-10 receptor agonists for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

US biotech Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has formed Regeneron Cell Medicines based on an agreement with US immuno-oncology cell therapy company 2seventy bio to acquire full development and commercialisation rights to its pipeline of investigational novel immune cell therapies, along with its discovery and clinical manufacturing capabilities. The venture includes a newly formed R&D unit to advance cell therapies and combination approaches in oncology and immunology.

Swedish power company Vattenfall and German specialty chemicals company Evonik have concluded new long-term electricity supply contracts. From 2025, two Vattenfall solar parks in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, with a peak total capacity of 120MW will supply Evonik with around 120GWh of solar power per year for chemical production. The solar electricity will displace more than 50,000t/year of CO2.

The University of Liverpool and Imperial College London will lead a £12m research hub – AlChemy – to develop AI for chemistry and accelerate its adoption, thanks to a combined investment from the UK’s Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and consortium partners.

US pharma AbbVie has broken ground on a new $223m expansion of its Singapore manufacturing facility. This investment will add more than 100 jobs and new biologics manufacturing capacity to AbbVie’s global network. Located in Singapore’s Tuas Biomedical Park, AbbVie’s Singapore plant is a small-molecule and biologics manufacturing facility serving markets worldwide. It will add 24,000l of biologics drug-substance capacity to AbbVie’s global manufacturing network and support current products as well as emerging immunology and oncology compounds within AbbVie’s pipeline.

Belgian chemical company Solvay has announced that its Green River, Wyoming, US soda ash plant has completed its coal phase-out initiative. The facility produces soda ash and sodium bicarbonate from trona, a naturally occurring mineral. These products are used in numerous applications including fast-growing markets for solar panels and lithium carbonate for EV batteries. By 2025, overall emissions from Green River will have decreased by 20% compared with 2021, despite a 25% increase in production.

The UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Angela McLean, has opened a new state-of-the-art facility for UK research into tiny chemical and natural particles as small as one-eightieth of the width of a human hair. The UK Centre for Multimodal Correlative Microscopy and Spectroscopy (CoreMiS), based at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) in Oxfordshire, will provide vital information about particles’ impact on the environment and human health.

Swiss biotech EraCal Therapeutics has entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Danish pharma Novo Nordisk to develop and commercialise EraCal’s oral, small-molecule programme, which includes molecules believed to target a novel mechanism of action controlling appetite and body weight to treat obesity.

The University of Liverpool’s nanoscale science capability has received a boost thanks to an £800k grant from the Wolfson Foundation, a UK charity that awards grants to support excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education and the arts and humanities. The investment will provide Liverpool with a new state-of-the art instrument that will transform research in critical areas such as advanced surfaces, materials, energy and global health. The Nano Atomic Force Microscopy-Infrared (nanoAFM-IR) platform can characterise and correlate the structure, chemistry and properties of matter down to the nanoscale level, providing new insights and understanding of functional interfaces and materials.

US enterprise AI application software company C3 AI has been chosen again by US biotech Genentech as the provider for AI-based predictive maintenance software on the company’s biologics manufacturing equipment. These medicines help patients with some of the most difficult to treat diseases, from multiple sclerosis and macular degeneration to blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has contracted a consortium that includes German chemical manufacturer BASF to conduct scientific studies on the reliability and relevance of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) as alternatives to animal testing and to promote the use of such methods in the future. The aim of the contract is to get additional NAMs accepted by regulatory authorities, focusing on molecular biological technologies (OMICS and toxicokinetics), and thereby reduce the number of animal studies conducted as part of safety assessments for chemical substances. The contract will run for six years and has a total value of €4.2m in ECHA funding. The contract research project is led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM) in Hanover, Germany. ITEM, Michabo Health Science, based in Coventry, England, and BASF Metabolome Solutions in Berlin, Germany, is coordinating the work. Other partners include the department for experimental toxicology and ecology at BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, the University of Birmingham and UK biotechs BioClavis and Novogene Europe.

Solesis, a US company that provides custom design, development and manufacturing of textile- and polymer-based healthcare solutions for the medical device and biopharmaceutical industries, has announced plans to build a new manufacturing site in Costa Rica dedicated to producing implantable textile components, polymer-based devices and components, and single-use technologies. The facility will be in the first industrial park and free trade zone in Latin America that is environmentally sustainable.

Swiss pharma Novartis has entered into an agreement to make a voluntary public takeover offer to acquire MorphoSys, a German biopharma developing oncology medicines.

US technology and specialty materials company Celanese Corporation, and Under Armour, a US manufacturer of athletic apparel and footwear, have collaborated to develop a new fibre for performance stretch fabrics called NEOLAST. The material offers a high-performing alternative to elastane – an elastic fibre that gives apparel stretch, commonly called spandex. It could unlock the potential for end users to recycle performance stretch fabrics, a legacy aspect that has yet to be solved in the pursuit of circular manufacturing with respect to stretch fabrics.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has launched a new ion chromatography instrument. The Dionex Inuvion IC system equips environmental, industrial, municipal water, and food and beverage labs with tools to determine ionic contaminants in water. The technology also helps identify corrosive contaminants in oil and gas, as well as provide quality assurance and quality control of small ionic compounds in food, beverages and pharmaceuticals.

German company BASF Process Catalysts has announced a collaboration with Chinese wind turbines and energy management software company Envision Energy. The two companies plan to develop the conversion of green hydrogen and CO2 into e-methanol, a versatile and clean-burning fuel. This collaboration will see BASF provide its SYNSPIRE catalyst technology, which Envision Energy will integrate with its energy management system.

Following £600,000 in funding from Innovate UK’s REforMM programme, UK sustainable technology company Sonichem is leading a consortium to develop its ultrasound technology to produce renewable, cost-effective alternatives to petrochemicals used in the production of automotive plastics, resins and composites. The CARMA (carbon-neutral agroforestry-derived resins to materials for automotive applications) project will apply Sonichem’s ultrasonic processing technique to convert forestry sawdust into high-quality lignin. This renewable material then serves as the basis for bio-based chemicals to produce vehicle components.

UK chemicals supplier INEOS Inovyn has launched a new ultra-low-carbon range of products that reduce the carbon footprint of caustic soda, caustic potash and chlorine by up to 70% compared with industry averages. The range uses renewable energy sources to power manufacturing sites including Rafnes in Norway, which uses local hydroelectric power and Antwerp in Belgium, where electricity comes from North Sea wind turbines.