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What to watch for in 2018

C&EN reporters share their thoughts

December 18, 2017 | Volume 95 Issue 49

Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Melody Bomgardner, C&EN West Coast

“In cleantech, companies will continue to have a hard time competing with low prices for oil and gas. There will be some bright spots as some countries really get cracking on Paris climate agreement strategies. China is investing quite a lot in renewable energy, and China and India are investing in technologies to clean up pollution of air and water.”


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Ryan Cross, C&EN Boston

“Gene therapy and RNA interference therapy are expected to receive their first U.S. FDA approvals, which will keep excitement high in these fields. The biotech industry will also watch clinical trials of CAR T-cell immunotherapy, in which an individual’s T cells are engineered to seek and destroy cancer cells, to see if this technique works in more kinds of cancer, especially solid tumors. And the first in-human trials of CRISPR gene editing in the U.S. could begin.”

Update: On Dec. 19, 2017, the U.S. FDA approved a gene therapy, Luxterna, to treat a form of inherited blindness.


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Britt Erickson, C&EN Washington

“The U.S. chemical industry will continue to push back on reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act that Congress passed in 2016, especially if EPA requests toxicity data for new chemicals. Industry seems to be acting like the law was never amended. Environmental groups have already filed lawsuits, and we’ll likely see more.”


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Cheryl Hogue, C&EN Washington

“Concern over perfluorocarbon contamination of drinking water will continue to explode in the U.S. More communities, states, industries, and the Department of Defense will be involved, and wrangles over cleanup will ramp up. Pressure on EPA to limit these substances in drinking water will grow, but the Trump Administration will likely drag its feet. Innovative chemists may seize a profitable opportunity by developing new technologies to strip these persistent compounds from water.”


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Mitch Jacoby, C&EN Chicago

“Liquid metals are an underexplored area of materials that will continue to yield some really cool science. People are working mainly with gallium and a few of its alloys for applications such as patterning and flexible and stretchable circuits. These materials are even starting to find their way into catalysis. I’m sure we’ll see even more uses in 2018.”


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Steve Ritter, C&EN Washington

“The divide between science and public policy—we can call it chemistry’s cold war—will continue to grow and get chillier. Political conservatives and the chemical industry will up their advocacy for deregulation of chemicals in the name of economic benefits, even as scientific evidence continues to show that we all need to be more stringent stewards of the global environment. Chemists have a role to play in developing better chemicals and chemical processes to close this divide, but they also must be more vocal in sharing the pluses and minuses of chemistry with the public and policy-makers.”


Credit: Avner Ofer Photography

—Alex Tullo, C&EN New York City

“The sector to watch in inorganic chemicals is lithium. Prices for the battery raw material are high and demand is strong. Producers are trying to bring on new capacity quickly. And potential abounds for deal-making among major players: FMC is preparing a spin-off of its business, Albemarle is looking for acquisitions, and a substantial stake in SQM is up for sale.”