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Business Roundup

November 10, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 45

Chemtura is tightening its belt to “weather continued economic conditions,” the company said in a statement. The company is reducing capital spending by $25 million. It is also suspending its 20-cent-per-year dividend. The company’s stock price is about a fifth of what it was a year ago.

Battelle Memorial Institute has sold its subsidiary Velocys to the British company Oxford Catalysts for $35 million. Velocys develops microchannel process technology for the production of synthetic fuels, while Oxford has technology to produce such fuels using a microchannel Fischer-Tropsch process. Oxford and Velocys have been collaborating since May 2007.

Isis Innovation, the technology-transfer arm of the University of Oxford, says an Oxford research team has discovered a way to get methanol from glycerin, a by-product of biodiesel production. Edman Tsang, an Oxford inorganic chemistry professor, developed a supported precious-metal catalyst that carries out the conversion at low temperature and pressure.

Air Products & Chemicals is building a new plant in St. Charles, Mo., that will increase its capacity for Prism-brand gas separation hollow-fiber membranes by more than 50%. The firm’s existing membrane plant is in nearby St. Louis.

SKion, an investment group owned by Susanne Klatten, Germany’s richest woman, is offering to buy the rest of German specialty chemical maker Altana. SKion already owns a 50.1% stake in the company. Its tender offer for the remaining publicly traded shares is worth about $1.2 billion.

VeraSun Energy, one of the largest U.S. ethanol producers, has filed for bankruptcy. The company blames a sharp rise in the price of corn, compounded by its own procurement and hedging strategies. The company also notes that the credit crunch has made it difficult to find the financing necessary to stay afloat.

Avantium, a high-throughput R&D firm developing biofuels and novel drug crystal forms, has raised more than $23 million in a private financing round. Four new venture capital firms have invested in Avantium; Eastman Chemical and Pfizer continue to back the Dutch company.

3M Drug Delivery Systems and VaxInnate will develop a transdermal vaccine for use against a pandemic flu outbreak. VaxInnate will use 3M’s microneedle technology to deliver its M2e flu vaccine via a skin patch rather than through injection. The M2e vaccine is on track to enter Phase II trials in 2009.



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