Akzo Nobel to spin off pharmaceuticals business 

Dutch drugs, paints and chemicals group Akzo Nobel is to split into two independent companies by spinning off its pharmaceuticals business. 

The first step will be a minority initial public offering (IPO) of its pharmaceuticals business, including Organon and Intervet, to be called Organon Biosciences. The timing of the offering will be dependent on developments expected within Organon’s pipeline during the second half of the year, including Phase III data for asenapine, as well as on market conditions.

Following the IPO, Akzo Nobel intends to separate the pharmaceuticals business within two to three years. The exact structure and timing of the divestment of the remaining stake has not yet been decided.

The company believes that the reorganisation will enhance shareholder value through increased management and strategic focus and greater transparency. It says it is a logical extension of its strategy to fix pharma, refocus chemicals and invest in coatings.

It says the pharmaceuticals business has been restructured, margins have stabilised and the business is now positioned for profitable growth.

’The increased management and strategic focus afforded through the separation of pharmaceuticals will enable us to accelerate growth and invest in attractive expansion opportunities in our coatings and chemicals business,’ said Hans Wijers, Akzo Nobel’s chief executive officer.

The announcement came as Akzo Nobel released its full-year results for 2005. Net income of €961 million (£659 million) was up slightly from the 2004 figure of €945 million. The businesses making up Organon Biosciences generated €3.5 billion in 2005 revenue: Organon’s revenues rose three per cent, while Intervet’s rose seven per cent. Meanwhile, revenues in coatings and chemicals rose six per cent and four per cent, respectively.

Competition for Reach success

Global competitiveness is motivation for the chemical industry to make Reach work, say industry leaders.

Industry controls its own fate as the EU’s registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) legislation comes into force, said Stephen Elliot, acting director general of the UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA). If Reach implementation goes wrong, industry will bear the brunt of the blame, he cautioned.

Elliot addressed a meeting of leading industrialists, where concern about imported goods from outside Europe was high on the agenda. Confusion surrounds the rules for subjecting imported goods to EU regulations.

This area of the legislation was ’very messy’, said Elliot. This is not just a competitive issue, he urged, the health and environment of member states relies on it. The risk of sullied reputation will prevent the import of dangerous chemicals, and is one ray of light in the confusion, he said.

Each EU state must identify a competent authority to police Reach. In the UK, this will be either the Environment Agency or the Health and Safety Executive. This needs immediate action, said Elliot. Reach offers a graphic opportunity for industry to address product safety, he said. ’There is no excuse for member states to sit back and think about it.’

Agilent updates portfolio

Self-styled measurement company Agilent Technologies has updated over 40 per cent of its high pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry ranges, and introduced software that can be used on competitor’s machines.

The 1200 HPLC system is an update on the company’s 1100 range of analytical instruments, used in pharmaceuticals companies and other research labs for analysing organic molecules, drug compounds and biomolecules.

Product manager Helmut Schulenberg-Schell said Agilent’s latest equipment can test samples up to 27 times faster than before. The modular systems make it simple, he claims. ’This is not for an ivory tower R&D chemist,’ said Schulenberg, ’it can really be used’. The 1200 series takes advantage of lab-on-a-chip technology, with five different systems integrating capillaries, nano-sized separating columns and ionisation sources in self-contained chips, to avoid instrument contamination.

Alongside the HPLC system, Agilent has launched its 6000 LC/MS series, marking a major assault on the mass spectrometry market. The company aims to double its market share to hold 70 per cent of the $1.3 billion (?0.75 billion) market, said Taia Ergueta, general manager of Agilent’s LC/MS business.

Competitors will be taking note of Agilent’s accompanying software, OpenLAB, developed for ease of use on all makes of HPLC and LC/MS machines. Agilent will offer the software in exchange for competitors’ control codes.

CAT makes blockbuster

Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) has confirmed that Humira, a CAT antibody licensed to Abbott Laboratories, had worldwide sales of ?1.4 billion in 2005, making it the first product from the UK biotech industry to achieve blockbuster status.

Abbott has approval to market Humira as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis in a number of countries worldwide.

Degussa buys and sells

Degussa is acquiring Dow Chemical’s superabsorbent business, and selling its construction chemicals activities, probably to BASF.

The deal with Dow includes the superabsorbent facility in Rheinmuenster/Baden-Baden, Germany, and a toll manufacturing agreement with Dow’s superabsorbent facility in Midland, Michigan, US. The two companies will also enter into a long-term agreement for Dow to supply glacial acrylic acid, used in the manufacture of superabsorbent polymers, to Degussa.

Meanwhile, Degussa is negotiating exclusively with BASF over the sale of its construction chemicals business.

Sandoz spins off drug research

A specialist antibiotic research and development company has been spun off from Sandoz.

The new company, Nabriva, previously existed within Sandoz as the Vienna, Austria-based Antibiotic Research Institute. The decision to spin off the business follows Sandoz’s recent reorientation as the generics company within Novartis.

Nabriva has €42 million (£29 million) of funding from a syndicate led by Nomura and including Wellcome, HBM, Novartis Bioventures, and Global Life Science Ventures.

Nabriva will focus on developing small molecule antibodies for use in community and hospital infections. Its antibacterial drug pipeline includes three late preclinical projects and one product about to enter Phase I clinical trials.

Safer chemicals initiative agreed

A global initiative aimed at making chemicals safer has been agreed at an international conference in Dubai in February.

The initiative, called the strategic approach to international chemicals management (SAICM), was agreed to by over 100 environment and health ministers and adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme.

SAICM’s scope includes risk assessments of chemicals, harmonised labelling, and tackling obsolete and stockpiled products. It also carries provisions for national centres aimed at helping countries, especially in the developing world, train staff in chemical safety.

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) launched two initiatives to support SAICM at an international chemicals management meeting in Dubai that preceded the ministers’ meeting.

The two initiatives - the Responsible Care global charter and the global product strategy - aim to raise the global chemical industry’s commitment to improving environment, health and safety performance, and product stewardship.

’The chemical industry sees the Responsible Care global charter and the global product strategy as the cornerstones of its contribution to activities implementing SAICM,’ said Peter Elverding, ICCA board president, president of Cefic, and chief executive officer of DSM.

Network for materials advice

A new partnership between businesses, research and technology organisations and universities will give UK manufacturing and service providers a one-stop shop for materials advice.

The Materials Knowledge Transfer Network will provide businesses with access to scientific and manufacturing facilities to research and apply innovations in the use of materials.

Speaking at the launch, science and innovation minister Lord Sainsbury said it will ’make the best use of resources and spread best practice’.

The Department of Trade and Industry is providing ?11 million over the next three years.

The network will have sections dedicated to each class of material, for example, metals, composites, plastics, ceramics, minerals and smart materials.

Recognition for BASF

BASF has been included in Innovest’s Global 100 list of the world’s most successful companies in the areas of environmental protection, and social and corporate governance issues.

In selecting BASF, Innovest highlighted the company’s achievements in innovation, product stewardship and sustainability management.

Journalists geta helping hand

Lifestyle journalists covering chemical science-related stories have been given a briefing document in an effort to get more accurate stories in magazines.

Sense about Science, a charity that promotes an evidence-based approach to scientific issues, published a briefing document, Making sense of chemical stories, aimed at lifestyle journalists writing for women’s, supermarket and health magazines.

The document addressed six of the most prevalent misconceptions about chemicals in lifestyle commentary, including: man-made chemicals are inherently dangerous; you can lead a chemical-free life; and it is beneficial to avoid man-made chemicals. It also explains the language used by chemists.