MAKING CONNECTIONS IN THE BIG EASY
Fine chemicals suppliers, custom manufacturers trek to New Orleans for Informex 2002
N'AWLINS Probably the only thing Mardi Gras and Informex have in common is the locale--New Orleans.
A. MAUREEN ROUHI, C&EN WASHINGTON
Last week, it was Mardi Gras that drew celebrants to New Orleans. Next week, because of Informex 2002, New Orleans is the place to be for suppliers and custom manufacturers of fine chemicals. This annual exhibition of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) is one of the most important annual events of the fine chemicals and custom manufacturing industry. Here, manufacturers have the opportunity to meet with multiple clients in one place, customers have the chance to size up various potential suppliers, and everyone has lots of networking and educational opportunities.
Informex has grown dramatically from its modest beginnings of 42 tabletop exhibits in 1984. This year, from Feb. 27 to March 1, there will be 425 companies showing off their capabilities at New Orleans' Morial Convention Center. As C&EN went to press, about 3,000 of an expected 4,000 attendees already are preregistered, according to SOCMA.
The show will be biased toward services to the pharmaceutical industry because the custom manufacturing industry has become heavily focused on active pharmaceutical ingredients. "But Informex is not solely for pharmaceutical suppliers," says Stuart Needleman, senior vice president for business development at Rhodia ChiRex and chairman of the Informex 2002 planning committee. "SOCMA members include suppliers for agrochemicals, flavors and fragrances, soaps and detergents, polymer additives, and other custom chemicals."
"The emphasis is on 'synthetic,' " says John C. Wetzel, director of custom manufacturing at Rütgers Organics Corp. and a member of the Informex 2002 planning committee. That the show is not diluted with formulators, providers of clinical trial services, or equipment suppliers is one of its advantages, he says.
A broad range of capabilities will be offered, says James Elder, a commercial development manager for Dow Chemical and vice chairman of the Informex 2002 planning committee. "Someone may have a complex molecule that they want made. Or someone may need unique custom processing, such as a special distillation. Companies will be there that can do either of those."
First-time attendees must brace themselves for a frenetic pace and arrive with comfortable walking shoes and an ample supply of business cards. Veterans of the show say Informex has evolved to be the place to meet customers. "Informex has become increasingly a venue for prearranged meetings to discuss existing or potential business already in the works," Wetzel says.
"The days are intense," Elder says. "From the time the show opens to the time it closes, it's full of meetings."
"You can schedule an appointment for almost every half hour," according to Charles M. Boland, executive vice president of Cedarburg Pharmaceuticals and another planning committee member. "Over the two-and-a-half days of the exhibition, including breakfast, lunch, and dinners, we're seeing 50 existing or potential clients. It's very productive from a cost-benefit point of view."
Rather than just walking the exhibition floor and spontaneously showing up at booths, most Informex attendees arrive with itineraries set weeks in advance. Much homework is involved, and the payoff is good. "The exhibitors bring in their key decisionmakers to meet with the key decisionmakers from the customer side," Elder says. "You could actually get business deals closed while attending the show."
The meetings have become less about finding new projects than they once were, according to Needleman. Now they are more about continuing relationships. "Informex is a place to get back after the new year--after the budgets and projects have been set--when everyone is ready to focus on the work for the year ahead," he says.
A lot of preshow hobnobbing takes place. So even though the exhibition will not open until Wednesday, Feb. 27, many attendees will be in New Orleans earlier in the week. "A lot of the big meetings between customers and suppliers are held prior to the exhibition," Needleman says. "We've had to meet with pharmaceutical companies on the Monday or Tuesday because they will be too busy on the Wednesday and Thursday of the show walking around and gathering intelligence. That's why Informex has become a full week in our calendars."
The networking opportunities at Informex are probably the reason that the show has become a premier event in the industry, Wetzel says. The two scheduled receptions--the sponsors of which include this magazine--"are extremely important," he says. "That's where you should be meeting people you've never seen before or you've been wanting to meet. And when you leave, you should have dozens of new business cards."
Informex 2002 has several new features. Most obvious might be the absence of a keynote speaker. "It wasn't high on anybody's list," Needleman says. Instead, the time usually allotted for a keynote speech will be added to the networking receptions. "Attendees have told us they would like that better," he says.
Other new features are in the educational program, held the day before the exhibition. Informex 2002 offers for the first time collaborative networking roundtables and a purchasing forum.
In the collaborative networking roundtables, attendees will be able to walk up to a table of people discussing the topic of their interest and enter into a group discussion. Each topic will be facilitated by an industry expert. Some of the topics are strategic alliances and partnerships, issues and challenges related to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs), intellectual property rights, and technology transfer.
For the purchasing forum, the Infor-mex 2002 planning committee has invited seasoned purchasing and supply-chain professionals from the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and other industries of interest. The professionals will give overviews of their industries and explain what it takes to be a preferred supplier to them.
The workshop on enabling technologies has been a regular feature at Informex. But at Informex 2002, a poster session will be held as well. "It opens up the floor to more companies and people to talk about their new technologies," Elder says.
The exhibitors' showcase also has been a regular feature at Informex. This year, more than 100 companies will have 15 minutes each to highlight their products and services. Companies usually take this opportunity to call attention to recent important developments of interest to their customers. The following sampling of showcase offerings previews what will be highlighted at Informex 2002.
First-time attendees must brace themselves for a frenetic pace and arrive with comfortable walking shoes and an ample supply of business cards. Veterans of the show say Informex has evolved to be the place to meet customers.
TECHNOLOGIES. Eastman Chemical's asymmetric catalysis technology based on BoPhoz ligands makes its Informex debut. The ligands were developed by senior research associate Neil W. Boaz for catalytic asymmetric hydrogenations. Compared with other ligands for asymmetric hydrogenation catalysts, BoPhoz ligands are easily prepared and highly robust, Boaz tells C&EN. It appears that the ligands retain their activity and enantioselectivity even after months of exposure to air. This means they could be used to screen reactions without having to rigorously exclude air.
The ligands are particularly good in asymmetric rhodium-catalyzed hydrogenations of dehydroamino acids to the corresponding chiral amino acids. Over a wide variety of substrates, enantiomeric excess ranges from 97.2 to 99.5%. Lower enantiomeric excesses are realized with itaconates (8992%) and a-ketoesters (88.197.2%)
Great Lakes' showcase will focus on advances in preparing aryl alanines and diphenylphosphino ligands and new applications of phosgenation. A general approach to unnatural amino acids by asymmetric hydrogenation of amido cinnamic acids has been scaled up, according to Robert Gandy, manager of chemical development. Also being developed is a biocatalytic route based on enzymatic amination of cinnamic acids.
Diphenylphosphino compounds are widely used as ligands in both chiral and achiral catalyst systems. Great Lakes has developed two synthetic methods for these compounds. One method involves treatment of an aryl triflate or bromide with chlorodiphenylphosphine [(C6H5)2PCl]. The other involves treatment of an aryl chloride with sodium diphenylphosphide [(C6H5)2PNa], which is generated from a sodium dispersion treated with chlorodiphenylphosphine or triphenylphosphine [(C6H5)3P].
A recent addition to Great Lakes' portfolio of phosgenation applications is use of dichlorotriphenylphosphorane--(C6H5)3PCl2--as a mild chlorinating agent to prepare cyclopropylacetylene from cyclopropyl methyl ketone. Cyclopropylacetylene is a key intermediate in the synthesis of efavirenz, an antiviral drug used to treat HIV infections.
Rhodia ChiRex will describe efforts to use oligomeric catalysts developed by Harvard University chemistry professor Eric N. Jacobsen in preparing key pharmaceutical intermediates such as 1-aryloxy- and 1-alkoxy-2-alcohols.
Sumitomo Chemicals will discuss what it calls selective amidation technology for preparing peptides and for forming amide linkages in multistep syntheses of drugs. It's effective when the two moieties being bridged are large; for example, when two tetrapeptides are being combined to form an octapeptide. In practice, the substrate of nucleophilic attack is an N-protected a-amino acid. When this substrate is activated through Sumitomo's proprietary technology, it then readily condenses with a primary amine group in an a-amino ester, forming an asymmetric amide. Sumitomo has pilot- and industrial-scale facilities to produce amide starting materials or cGMP-registered intermediates with this technology.
FACILITIES. Siegfried Exclusives will update the status of the $24 million development pilot plant being installed at its Zofingen, Switzerland, headquarters. The new facility, set to be opened in May, was designed according to a "building within a building" principle, Stefan M. Peterli, key account manager for the U.S. market, tells C&EN. The inner shell is operated under clean-air conditions. A dividing wall completely separates the operations room, where all the chemicals are handled, from the reactor room, where all the technical installations are located. The setup simplifies cleaning and minimizes cross-contamination.
Lonza Group will tout cGMP manufacturing capacity for large-scale, solid-phase production of peptides recently installed at its facilities in Visp, Switzerland. Ready to go, the plant can produce more than 100 kg per year. The reactor and isolation equipment are also suitable for synthesis of oligonucleotides, a product area in which Lonza expects to participate strongly.
Rhodia will talk about the status of major improvements, including adding capacity, at its facility in Salindres, France, for the manufacture of trifluoroacetic acid, triflic acid, and derivatives prepared through a nonchlorofluorocarbon route. These products are used in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, electronics, and coatings industries as catalysts, solvents, and building blocks. Rhodia expects the additional capacity to strengthen its
market position with these products.
Meanwhile, Rhodia Chirex will provide details about expansion of its cGMP pilot-plant capabilities in Lyon, France, and how this will provide better service to regional customers. It will also report on the outcome of Food & Drug Administration inspections of its manufacturing facilities at its Annan, Scotland, and Dudley, England, sites.
SK Energy & Chemical will discuss plans to almost double capacity at its facility in Daeduck, South Korea, from 70 m3 to 130 m3. This expansion is targeted to production of (S)-3-hydroxy-g-butyrolactone, a key pharmaceutical intermediate, by high-pressure hydrogenation of l-malic acid. Other products slated for the additional capacity are chiral alcohols and chiral amino alcohols. The additional capacity is expected to be operational in first-quarter 2003.
The company will also reveal plans to construct a high-pressure, continuous catalytic hydrogenator at its Daeduck facility. Operating at 300 atm, the unit will complement the existing 200-atm pilot-plant high-pressure hydrogenator and enable production of previously inaccessible pharmaceutical intermediates.
Merck KGaA will report that by mid-2002 its custom synthesis capacity will increase by 25% when a pilot plant recently installed at its facilities in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, is fully operational. Another production plant--in Darmstadt, Germany--will be fully operational in mid-2003.
Pressure Chemical Co. will discuss two recently installed continuous-flow, fixed-bed reactors at its facilities in Pittsburgh. With these, PCC now can develop continuous hydrogenations and other continuous operations at laboratory and pilot scales.
PRODUCTS. BASF will highlight chiral intermediates marketed under the brand name ChiPros. The portfolio includes chiral amines, alcohols, amino alcohols, epoxides, and aminocarboxylic acid derivatives. These are produced under cGMP conditions at multiproduct facilities in Ludwigshafen, Germany, using biocatalytic processes. BASF began an R&D effort in 1993, anticipating the rising demand for chiral drugs and chiral intermediates.
Also in Ludwigshafen, production of (R)-mandelic acid was begun late last year. Synthesis of this pharmaceutical intermediate combines HCN chemistry with biocatalysis. Routes to other optically active mandelic acid derivatives are being developed.
Merck KGaA will introduce its capability to synthesize steroids under full cGMP conditions at dedicated production units in Monaco. Various estrogens, progesterones, androgens, and corticoids already are available commercially.
The company also will be touting its new product aminocyanoacetamide. The compound is a versatile building block used to prepare purines and pteridines. Purines and pteridines, respectively, are intermediates in the synthesis of antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, and of anticancer drugs, such as methotrexate.
SERVICES. Johnson Matthey will introduce Johnson Matthey Catalytic Services, a new contract service for developing and optimizing catalytic processes. Activities range from high-throughput screening of catalysts--including platinum group metals, base metals, and solid acids--to process scale-up. The new business complements those of Pharm-Eco, another Johnson Matthey company, which offers contract research, process development, and scale-up.
REORGANIZATION. PCC is forming a specialty chemicals division based on facilities in Leland, N.C., which had been operated by its former affiliate CT Specialties Corp. PCC says the integration will make it easier for customers to transition from pilot-scale work at PCC's Pittsburgh facilities to commercial production in Leland.
ACCOLADES. Rütgers Organics will tout the Responsible Care Achievement Award it received last month from SOCMA. The award recognizes companies that successfully implement Responsible Care practices for managing manufacturing facilities with a high regard for environmental protection and the health and safety of workers and communities.
Informex 2002 organizers hope that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, will not significantly affect attendance at this year's show. The smooth executions of Super Bowl XXXVI and the annual Mardi Gras in New Orleans earlier this month give reason for optimism. The Big Easy is ready. Are you?
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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society