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Business Concentrates

September 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 37

ZymoGenetics, Serono in pact

Seattle-based ZymoGenetics and Swiss biopharmaceutical giant Serono have entered a broad partnership to research, develop, and commercialize novel protein and antibody therapeutics that feature ZymoGenetics technology. Serono has taken an 8.1% stake, worth $50 million, in ZymoGenetics. Additionally, Serono will gain access to a large portfolio of ZymoGenetics' genes and proteins for in-house evaluation and screening, with licensing rights, valued at another $20 million in total, set for five years. In turn, ZymoGenetics will have the option to codevelop and cocommercialize in the U.S. any products selected by Serono. In particular, Serono will have worldwide rights to develop and commercialize products based on fibroblast growth factor 18 and two interleukin products. In addition to the $20 million payment, ZymoGenetics will receive initial license fees of $11.25 million for these three products and could reap overall payments in excess of $100 million. Serono's license to other proteins for development outside the U.S. is subordinate to an earlier agreement that ZymoGenetics has with Denmark's Novo Nordisk. Novo holds a 39% share of ZymoGenetics, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Novo from 1988 to 2000, when the Danish firm reduced its shareholding.


Resolution sues Formosa

Resolution Performance Products has filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Harris County, Texas, against Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Corp. and certain individuals, alleging unlawful conduct including unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, fraud, and conspiracy. Resolution, which calls itself the world's leading maker of epoxy resins, is seeking damages of at least $100 million. Formosa produces epoxy resins and a key raw material, epichlorohydrin, in Taiwan. No further information was available as of press time.


Cargill, Hatco in ester deal

Cargill and Kaufman Holdings' Hatco Corp. unit are forming a joint venture to produce specialty esters in China. The firms say the venture would build a plant in the Shanghai region by the end of 2005 to supply the Asian market with esters and formulated synthetic lubricants for refrigeration, automotive, metalworking, and other applications. The two companies already operate a similar joint venture in Brazil.


Malfroot back at Isochem

The top management shuffle continues on at Isochem, SNPE's fine chemicals subsidiary, with the return of Thierry Malfroot as senior vice president and director of fine chemicals. Malfroot held the position from 1999 to 2003 before being replaced by Bernard Fontana following a reorgani- zation of the fine chemicals group. Fontana left the firm earlier this year, and his replacement, Jean-Pierre Martinet, is now leaving as well. Malfroot has spent the past year working in an advisory role at SNPE. Bernard Roussel, vice president of communications, says it is too early to comment on possible further changes at Isochem, which has expressed an interest in merging with another firm.

P&G to boost oleochemicals

Procter & Gamble Chemicals is taking several steps to offset what it says was an unexpected series of fatty alcohol plant closures by other firms around the world. P&G says it has expanded its Kansas City tertiary amine plant by 10,000 metric tons per year and its global fatty alcohol network by 30,000 metric tons. The company says it is in an "advanced stage of planning" for 100,000 metric tons of fatty alcohol to be produced in Kuala Tanjung, Sumatra, with Indonesia's Sawit Mas Group. In January, P&G announced a marketing agreement with Sawit Mas, which is entering the fatty alcohol business with a 40,000-metric-ton plant to open next year.

Software firms strike deals

Two software firms have reached agreements that expand their offerings into new disciplines. Accelrys will license to Bayer Healthcare a library of life sciences modeling software that includes chemistry and chemical structure calculation tools. Scott Kahn, chief science officer at Accelrys, says the deal represents a life sciences application of quantum mechanical software originally applied in materials and chemical research. Tripos, meanwhile, will assist the pest-control company Divergence in molecular lead optimization. Tripos CEO John P. McAlister notes that the deal complements his firm's life sciences focus and "showcases how our knowledge-driven approach can be vital to any molecular-based research."

BASF acquires marker system

BASF's plant science unit has acquired an exclusive worldwide commercial license for a new selection marker from SweTree Technologies. The gene, used to identify plant cells that have successfully integrated a new gene, was developed by researchers from the Umeå Plant Science Centre at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. SweTree is a joint initiative between the center and the Swedish firm Woodheads. The gene that BASF is licensing is based on deactivation of d-serine, an amino acid that inhibits plant growth. BASF says it will invest some $850 million in plant biotechnology through 2010.

DuPont to settle PFOA lawsuit

DuPont has reached an agreement in principle with attorneys and local residents to settle a class-action lawsuit over releases of the chemical C8, or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), from the company's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va. (C&EN, Aug. 30, page 17). Critical components of the settlement, DuPont says, include PFOA drinking water treatment facilities for area communities and the creation of an expert panel to evaluate scientific evidence on the extent of any probable link between PFOA exposure and any human disease. The settlement, which is pending court approval, calls for cash payments and expenditures of $85 million and attorneys' fees of $22.6 million.

Novamont buys degradable line from Eastman

Eastman Chemical is selling its Eastar Bio biodegradable polyester copolymer business to Italian biodegradable plastics maker Novamont. Eastman says the business is no longer a strategic fit and that Novamont is a "natural" owner. "The acquisition will permit us to widen the range of Novamont's proprietary products and speed up the internal development of polyesters from renewable resources," says Catia Bastioli, Novamont's managing director. Eastar Bio's product is used in cutlery, disposable packaging, compost bags, and other such applications.

Sunesis, Biogen together again

Biogen Idec and Sunesis have formed a drug discovery collaboration in the cancer field. Under the agreement, the companies will use Sunesis' fragment-based Tethering technology to identify small-molecule leads to kinase cancer targets. Sunesis will receive an up-front $7 million technology access fee and $14 million in equity investment and research funding. The deal is the second between the two firms, which formed a collaboration over inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in 2002. In that deal, Biogen agreed to pay technology access and milestone fees to Sunesis, along with an equity investment and loan, totaling up to $60 million per target.


Employment falls in August

U.S. chemical employment, as reported by the Labor Department, fell in August, but the number of production workers, a key to industry recovery, rose for the seventh straight month. The seasonally adjusted data show overall employment at 893,400, down 1,000 from July and off 12,000 from August of last year. Meanwhile, hourly production workers numbered 524,700, up 1,100 from the previous month and only 800 fewer than in August 2003. The chemical workweek increased slightly to 42.9 hours from 42.8 hours in July. This, combined with the number of production workers, drove the government's index of aggregate hours of production to 100.1 (2002 = 100), the highest it has been since March 2003.

Konarka buys voltaics unit

Konarka Technologies has purchased Siemens' organic photovoltaic research activities. Konarka says the acquisition will combine two leading efforts to develop cheap and versatile photovoltaics. The research team at Siemens, headed by Cristoph Brabec, developed the first polymer cells with efficiencies of above 5%. Brabec will become Konarka's director of polymer photovoltaic research. Alan Heeger, a 2000 Nobel Laureate in chemistry for his work in conductive polymers and a founding scientist of Konarka, notes that the deal will unite him; Brabec; and Serdar Sariciftci, a Konarka scientific adviser who studied with Heeger at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "This puts three of the most recognized pioneers in conductive polymers all on the same team," Heeger says.

Merck inks deal with TransTech

Merck and TransTech Pharma have formed a collaboration under which they will use TransTech's Translational Technology drug discovery platform to discover and develop novel small molecules for an unspecified Merck therapeutic target. Merck has the exclusive right to develop and commercialize all compounds found under the agreement. TransTech could receive payments of more than $26 million plus unspecified milestone payments.


Kemira adds in fertilizers, coatings

Kemira is boosting its business in countries in the former East bloc. In the latest move, the Finnish company's GrowHow division has agreed to acquire Transcenter Kft, a Hungarian fertilizer factory with annual sales of less than $25 million. The purchase follows two earlier acquisitions in the former East bloc. In one, GrowHow bought out its partner, AB Lifosa, in a Lithuanian fertilizer joint venture now known as UAB Kemira Lifosa. And Kemira's Tikkurila coatings division is buying a 51% stake in Kolorit Paints, based in Kiev, Ukraine.


BASF will boost capacity in Ludwigshafen, Germany, for its high-temperature Ultrason polymers. The 20% boost is expected to be complete by the end of this year. Ultrason S is polysulfone, and Ultrason E is polyethersulfone.

The U.K.'s Department of Trade & Industry has approved a grant of nearly $30 million to Huntsman Petrochemicals toward construction of a $370 million low-density polyethylene plant in northeastern England. Construction should be complete in 2007.

Thales Nanotechnology, a microfluidics firm, has developed a benchtop hydrogenation unit that it says eliminates the need for an external hydrogen source. Thales expects the unit, called H-Cube, to "revolutionize" laboratory hydrogenation.

Rhodia has named Richard Kennedy as president of its U.S. subsidiary. He replaces Myron Galuskin, who is retiring after six years in the role. Kennedy will continue to lead Rhodia's global phosphorus and performance derivatives unit.

Acadia Pharmaceuticals will set up a chemistry R&D facility in the Medicon Valley region in Malmö, Sweden. Acadia, based in San Diego, says it will maintain its existing chemistry lab near Copenhagen.

Diversa has been awarded an NIH grant to develop antibodies for diagnosis and treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The firm will receive about $1.9 million to screen more than 1 billion antibodies against targets associated with the SARS virus.

Evotec OAI has entered a three-year research pact with Boehringer Ingelheim to identify and develop small molecules acting on selected G-protein-coupled receptors. The alliance will initially focus on diseases of the central nervous system.


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