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This Week on GlobCasino: #CPhI, a heated swimsuit, and more

Tweet of the week:

To the network:

Cleantech Chemistry: Gates Invests In KiOR, Elevance Coming to U.S.

Fine Line: CPhI Day Four: Clean-up and CPhI Day Three: All the King’s Horses? and CPhI Day Two: Complexity Prevails and CPhI Day One: Theme Time

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots

The Safety Zone: New OSHA tools for controlling chemical exposure

The Watch Glass: Frog Eggs and Preserving the Past and Heated Swimsuit and Agent Orange’s Legacy and Man, Space, and Life Support Systems

CPhI Day Four: Clean-up

“Self Portrait with Champagne” by Frankfurt’s favorite son, Max Beckmann. The great expressionist painted this highly-charged portrait in a Frankfurt cabaret after serving as a medic in World War One. The Städel includes this and many other paintings by Beckmann in its permanent collection.

Day Four of CPhI, the third day of the exhibition, is always clean-up day. If you find someone who is still around, he or she will likely have time to chat. I finally caught up with Xavier Jeanjean, vice president of sales and business development at Isochem, the French pharmaceutical chemicals firm.

Like others, Jeanjean is guardedly optimistic about the drawn-out recovery in contract services for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). He likes the complex molecule/service package angle that is shaping up for the CPhI Review article on Nov. 11. Like many others, including Markus Blocher, CEO of Dottikon, he sees the call for high tech manufacturing and services as a vindication of a long-standing strategy of marketing chemicals as part of a comprehensive technology/regulatory/quality package.  It was interesting to hear that Isochem is making an effort to concentrate primarily on the pharma market next year, given that other players, notably Saltigo, have shifted their emphasis to specialties and agricultural chemicals of late.

But Jeanjean gives one very good reason to lean into APIs just now: “Innovation is back.” The complex molecules I have alluded to all week are real. They are currently coming forward with momentum and their owners are in need of a lot of specialized support.

Review to come.

Cultural Note I: C&EN got beat on tweets! Congratulations to our good friend in the Press Room, Brandi Schuster, editor-in-chief of ChemManager

. No “I-prizes” are given for blogging, unfortunately.

Cultural Note II: I noticed that Josh Fischman tweeted about my Day 3 post—The tweets were rolling on big video screens around the Messe all week. A regular birdhouse, it was! Thanks Josh and Ann Thayer for twittering about Fine Line

at CPhI.

CPhI Day Three: All the King’s Horses?

"Christ in the Underworld," Emil Nolde, 1910, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

“Christ in the Underworld,” Emil Nolde, 1910, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

Wow! What a morning. The usual stops really paid off. Take, for example, my visit to the Weylchem/Corden Pharma booth, housing two groups of companies owned by the voraciously acquisitive International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG) based here in Frankfort. I came by at the invitation of Andrea Missio, business development director for WeylChem International. We had a great talk, but while I was there I also caught Laura Coppi, managing director of Farchemia, a Milan area company in the Corden group. Then, I ran into the Achim Riemann, the managing director of ICIG!

Laura, you will recall, is late of Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici (FIS), where she came in as commercial director with the departure of Roger LaForce two years ago. She explained that she is now leading a profit center that operates rather autonomously within a conglomerate. One of her first tasks is to prepare a “strategic growth plan.” I asked for more details on the plan: “Hey! I’ve only been here two weeks!” she said. “Come on!”

Fair enough.

Missio and Coppi discussed how companies within ICIG and its two chemical subdivisions synergize and autonomize. Missio begged off questions about a recent ICIG acquisition, that of Allessa, the German fine and specialties chemicals group. Both WeylChem and Allessa are composed of former Hoechst chemical businesses and have assets in the Frankfurt area. The operational synergies for these sites are obvious. Not so the synergies between WeylChem’s and Allessa’s operations elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.

ICIG’s press release highlighted the reuniting of the Hoescht businesses.

I asked Reimann if  ICIG, which most recently purchased DNF, a former Clariant detergents business, is attempting to build a large German chemicals conglomerate. No, he said, the firm is looking to create two integrated global businesses—one, Corden Pharma, focused on APIs, and the other, WeylChem, focused on non-cGMP fine chemicals. He concedes that operations are still centered in Europe with some U.S. sites and none in Asia. The company continues to look at China, but finds the cost of setting up operations prohibitive, says Reimann.

Sources with other companies are skeptical of ICIG’s approach, viewing the deals as largely financial in nature. David Simmonet, president of Axyntis, says his firm recently purchased a French API plant in Calais, France, which had gone into bankruptcy—it was originally part of Tessenderlo, another company acquired by ICIG. Simmonet says Axyntis, which already has a plant with R&D assets in Calais, hopes to integrate and revive the Calais facility.

Day three ended with the European Fine Chemicals Group’s annual dinner, at which keynote speaker, Utz-Hellmuth Felcht, showed a slide (yes, another PowerPoint presentation at the EFCG dinner!) illustrating all the pieces spun off in the break-up of Hoechst. Felcht, whose long resume includes a run on the management board at Hoechst, noted that this slide looks like an explosion in a pharmacy. It does. I don’t think anyone could put that back together.

Reimann shrugs off any contention that ICIG is implementing a sink-or-swim culture among it’s holdings. The firm has been at it for some time, and certainly WeylChem and Corden Pharma are going ventures. Is the autonomous business portfolio approach working for ICIG and its holdings? Or is Calaire a casualty (one that may be revived) of rampant acquisition? Everyone is still watching to see.

At Allessa, folks are also waiting. One executive I asked about the future there said he could not comment. “It gets political,” he said.

Cultural Note: I resume illustrating Fine Line this week with some of my favorite paintings from The Städel, Frankfurt’s great art museum. No editorial tie-in intended.

Cultural Note II:

Guy Villax, CEO of Hovione, and Veronique Balay, procurement director for active pharmaceutical ingredients at Sanofi share a laugh at the EFCG Dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt.

Guy Villax, CEO of Hovione, and Veronique Balay, procurement director for active pharmaceutical ingredients at Sanofi, share a laugh at the EFCG Dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt [Fine Line Photo].

CPhI Day Two: Complexity Prevails

A Turkish drum and horn marching group entered the Messe at midday to entertain CPhI attendees.

A ceremonial Turkish drum and horn marching group entered the Messe this afternoon to entertain CPhI attendees and promote CPhI Istanbul, which debuts in June, 2014 [Fine Line Photo].


I combed
the disperse and multi-tiered halls of the Frankfurt Messe today, immediately picking up on one of the themes put forth at Monday’s conference. Ashland and Dow announced new drug dispersion polymer product line extensions. Both companies are addressing the need to improve the dispersion and delivery of complex molecules that are beginning move forward in the pipeline.

Christophe Massip, global marketing director for Dow Pharma & Food Solutions notes that 70 percent of the drugs across current industry pipelines are now rated Class 2 (poorly soluble), or Class 4 (poorly bioavailable). In essence, all the low hanging fruit of easy soluble molecules has been picked in drug R&D, he says.

Massip’s division, by the way, is one of five at Dow, including Dow Polyglycols, Surfactants and Fluids and Dow Water & Process Solutions, contributing to a new Dow Healthcare division that will focus on drug delivery, process purification and separation, and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Several companies, including the French firm Novasep, report new FDA inspections for high potency APIs, antibody drug conjugates, and other advanced technologies, responding to an increase need for high tech products and services. Some, like Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici (FIS) in Vicenza, Italy, are making big investments in R&D, upping high potency capacity and experimenting with flow chemistry.

The “new complexity” in API supply “does not come only from the molecule and the chemistry, but also from an increased uncertainty about what our customers will request,” says Franco Moro, general manager of FIS. “Outsourcing is not just outsourcing the product. It is outsourcing of services, including R&D, analytical and regulatory services, and quality”

In broadening its offering, FIS, in fact, has done some sub-outsourcing, forming several manufacturing and service partnerships. The company has been working with Enantia, a Spanish firm specializing in chemical R&D, and with a partner in the U.K. on crystallization research. FIS also has a Chinese partner manufacturing APIs.

Andreas Weiler, head of strategic marketing at SAFC, closed the day with a talk in the Messe Forum entitled, “Is There a Future for Western CMOs,” referring to contract manufacturing organizations serving the drug industry. His answer boiled down to “yes,” as long as they are ready to deal with the kind of drugs that have been introduced in the last two years—drugs that will require low volume, high potency APIs.

More on all this and a gloss of announcements at the press conferences tomorrow.

Cultural Note: I plan to revert to images from the Städel collection tomorrow, unless another excellent choice of images from the show presents itself.


CPhI Day One: Theme Time

"The Blinding of Samson," Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1636), the Städelsches Kunstinstitut , Frankfurt

“The Blinding of Samson,” Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1636), the Städelsches Kunstinstitut , Frankfurt

The fine chemicals world has funneled en masse to Frankfurt this week, as it needs to be somewhere in Europe at this time of year for CPhI, one of the major events on the “pharmachem” calendar. Frankfurt is a favored venue for the event—this is the third time since 2008 that CPhI has convened here.

Day One consisted of a series of conference sessions that nicely cued up the major themes in the industry in 2013: The impact on contract chemical suppliers of the high tech/complex molecules characterizing new drugs, and the changing regulatory and business landscapes in India and China. Perennial themes, yes, but they are not alone! Emerging markets were also on the docket, with one event titled “Generics and Super Generics in Emerging Markets.” I shared the moderator’s view, given during his introduction, that there is no such thing as a super generic, and left immediately to attend a session called “Drug Delivery Systems.” That seemed a bit more cut and dried.

Speakers from BASF, Hovione, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma outlined the challenges of achieving the necessary standards of safety and bioavailability at a cost that insures profits when tackling problems of getting new drugs into the patient. Each firm, as a supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), has launched a drug delivery technology service associated with finished-form APIs. While each can claim to have pioneered advances in areas such as spray drying or polymer micronization, I found it interesting that some of the real pioneers have come from other, perhaps not-so-unexpected, industries.

Take the plastics industry, where we find the architects of melt extrusion, a variant of which has been deployed by BASF for API production, according to Nigel Langley, head of marketing for pharma ingredients and services. Meanwhile, at Hovione, where spray drying is a specialty, efforts to mask the bitter taste of drugs has led the company to take a page from the book of the chocolatier, according to Conrad Winters, director of drug product development.

In an after-lunch event titled “API Sourcing in Emerging Markets,” panelists discussed the new regulatory pressures in China under president Xi Jinping. There has been a bit on that in Fine Line recently as well as in the magazine. On India, discussion centered around recent depreciation of the rupee and growth that is slowing at such a rate that it will soon break back into the single digits. Both countries still claim cost advantages over the West, and panelist point to the growth of cGMP and high tech manufacturing and research services.

There were ome interesting bits on how companies in the two countries are working to keep talent from moving to the U.S. and Europe. Panelist Ian Lennon, senior vice president of global business development at Chrial Quest, a Chinese API supplier, says the firm guarantees workers in some positions that if they leave the company, they can have their jobs back if new positions don’t work out. Reva Pharma, an Indian generics firm, pays for workers’ marriages in a bid to keep them local, according to CEO Gurpreet Sandhu, another panelist.

There was another panel on biosimilars that my colleague Ann Thayer attended. Here is her recent cover story on that topic.

This should serve as a quick overview of the discussions ahead in Frankfurt. Ann and I will be in touch—Ann on Twitter, I at Fine Line.

Cultural note 1: When in Frankfurt, visit the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, better known as the Städel. It is Frankfurt’s Prado (OK, I wish we were back in Madrid) and has some fantastic Modern and Old Masters paintings. No photograph I take at CPhI could compete with what I will use to illustrate my posts this week, paintings from the Städel, starting with the amazing Blinding of Samson (or Simson, as he is called in Frankfurt) by Rembrandt. I swung by the museum yesterday and will return after the expo on Thursday evening for a special exhibit of the work of Albrecht Dürer, which opens later this week.

Cultural note 2: To follow Ann’s tweets from CPhI, reference: @annmthayer

This Week on GlobCasino: #standingwithDNLee, vitamins and aliquots

Tweet of the week:

To the network:

Grand CENtral: Guest Post: “Perception is Power: How the Supplement Industry Bought Deregulation” by Tien Nguyen

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots

Terra Sigillata: A View on Scientific American Blogs and Censorship of Dr. Danielle Lee

The Watch Glass: Shared Values of Science, Religion and Garvan Medal to Agnes Morgan and Man vs. Bacteria and Federal R&D Spending (1974) and Solving Crystal Structures

This Week on GlobCasino: #chemnobel galore, #DavidSnyder and more

Tweet of the week:

To the network:

Cleantech Chemistry: Beta Renewables Officially Opens Italian Biofuels Plant

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots and Speed Dating At The NOBCChE Meeting

Terra Sigillata: Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 Goes to Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel

The Safety Zone: Friday chemical safety round up and #DavidSnyder ordered to trial in UC Davis explosives case

The Watch Glass: Chemical Weapons Disarmament and Chemists Turned Visionaries and 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winners and 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics Winners and 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Winners

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 Goes to Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel

Staffan Normark, Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has just announced Martin Karplus (Strasbourg/Harvard), Michael Levitt (Stanford), and Arieh Warshel (Univ. of Southern California) as this year’s recipients of the chemistry prize, “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The collective work was described as, “allowing classical and quantum mechanics to shake hands.”

Most relevant to my pharmacology and drug development readers, the laureates developed the computing methods to predict the interaction of pharmaceuticals with their drug targets, allowing drug design in advance of empirical experimentation.

Seven Lidin, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry said, “There is not a pharmaceutical company that doesn’t have a theory division.”

In 1975 and 1976, Warshel and Levitt began studying how the enzyme lysozyme works. They took the approach of trying to simplify the molecule so as to minimize the amount of computing power required to approximate how the enzyme works.

Warshel was the first to be reached on the Nobel livecast despite being the furthest away (and earliest) at 3:02 a.m. in Los Angeles.

He describes the advance of his work from X-ray crystal structures, static pictures of where atoms sit in three-dimensions. Warshel used the metaphor for X-ray structures of “seeing a watch and wondering how it works.”

Their methodology was a “way which required computers to take a structure of a protein and then to eventually understand how it does what it does.”

A tweet from the ACS Pressroom noted that Warshel is a 20-year ACS member and all three have published in ACS journals.

Our beloved colleague, Professor Paul Bracher who writes the chemistry blog Chembark, has been liveblogging the proceedings. In a C&EN Nobel predictions roundtable Google Hangout last week, Bracher expressed the feeling that a prize for theoretical work was “a longshot.”

Swedish organic chemist Per-Ola Norrby came the closest out of all the sources I could find in predicting Warshel and Karplus with Norman “Lou” Allinger of the University of Georgia. He notes that Allinger’s work preceded that of all three of this year’s winners.

But to Bracher’s credit otherwise, his odds list did include Monday’s physiology or medicine prize winners – Rothman, Schekman, and Südhof – for a cell biology prize that could have also been awarded in chemistry.