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December 2000
Vol. 9, No. 12, pp. 10, 12.

General Electric To Acquire Honeywell. General Electric (GE) has agreed to purchase Honeywell International, which will create the fourth largest U.S. chemical company after DuPont, Dow, and ExxonMobil. Both companies have extensive engineering polymer businesses, with GE selling $6.9 billion worth of engineering plastics per year and Honeywell’s performance polymers and chemicals division selling $3.3 billion annually. Plastics and chemicals will account for roughly 13% of the merged firm’s output. (C&EN, Oct. 30, 2000, p 7)

Rise in Chemical Production in September. The latest data from the U.S. Federal Reserve Board show that chemical industry production levels rose in September and were significantly higher than a year ago. However, production levels are still below January’s 12-month peak. The September production index rose 0.7% from August 2000 and is 4.2% higher than in September 1999. (C&EN, Oct. 23, 2000, p 18)

Drop in Chemical Surplus in August. U.S. chemical imports surged ahead at a faster pace than exports did in August, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Imports totaled $6.58 billion, up 11% from July 2000 and 25.9% from August 1999, while exports totaled $7.07 billion, up 9.7% from July 2000 and 15.2% from August 1999. The net result was a decline in surplus totaling $493 million, down 8.5% from July 2000. (C&EN, Oct. 20, 2000, p 11)

Plug Pulled on Prozac Isomer Drug. Eli Lilly (Indianapolis, IN), manufacturer of the antidepressant drug Prozac, has terminated its licensing and development agreement with Sepracor (Marlborough, MA) for (R)-fluoxetine, the single-isomer version of Prozac (racemic fluxetine). This next-generation drug was expected to help extend Lilly’s Prozac-based franchise until 2015. Clinical data showed a negative cardiac side effect at the highest dose tested. According to Sepracor, the side effect was small, but statistically significant, and continued development of the drug at lower doses would delay New Drug Approval (NDA) submission by two years. The failure of the program sheds doubt on the promise of single-isomer drugs. (C&EN, Oct. 30, 2000, p 8)

Mixed Earnings, Increased Sales for Chemical Companies. Higher raw material costs, as expected, are affecting third-quarter earnings at major chemical companies. Although prices are rising for most chemical products and many companies are posting increased sales, earnings have declined compared to the same quarter in 1999 for eight of the 15 largest U.S. chemical producers. However, for companies that posted increased earnings, the results were very promising. (C&EN, Nov. 6, 2000, p 10)


Cross-Border Pollution Talks Heat Up. Canada announced in August that it would meet or exceed U.S. standards for pollutants that cause ground-level ozone. With this commitment, Canada plans to hold up its end of the bargain on the Ozone Annex to the 1991 Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, a treaty the two countries are negotiating to cut transboundary air pollution. This new treaty commitment will allow the Canadian government to step in and force Ontario, which along with the province of Quebec is Canada’s major source of smog, to meet U.S. emissions standards if the province does not act on its own. NOx emissions from Ontario’s coal-fired power plants are three times higher than what would be allowed under U.S. regulations proposed for 2003. Final negotiations were expected to take place in October, and the treaty is expected to be signed by the end of this year. (Environ. Sci. Technol., Nov. 1, 2000, p 453A)

Fiscal Year 2001 Federal Research Bills Signed. President Clinton has signed into law the appropriations for most of the science and engineering research funding for fiscal year 2001. The National Science Foundation will get a budget increase of $529 million to $4.4 billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will get a 6% increase to $686 million, with all of the increase going to science and technology programs. (C&EN, Nov. 6, 2000, p 25)

Full Disclosure for Bottled Water? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommended in a Federal Register notice that bottled water reveal the same information on contaminants that water utilities are required to provide to customers under the Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about one-fourth of bottled water is little more than bottled tap water, and roughly one-third contains contaminants that exceed state or industry standards. Although FDA’s recommendation has not yet been enacted, it is a blow to the bottled water industry, which is a $4 billion/year business. (Environ. Sci. Technol., Nov. 1, 2000, p 455A)


Improved ELISAs. Researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Centre for Protein Engineering and the U.K. Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Center (in the United Kingdom) have updated the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the new century. This new high-throughput screening method, a variation of filter-based ELISA, can screen for more than 18,000 recombinant antibody clones at the same time. The researchers envision that this method may be an alternative to two-dimensional gel electrophoresis for separating proteins in proteomics application work. (Anal. Chem., Nov. 1, 2000, p 680A)

Hybrid Cars Best at Lowering CO2 Emissions. A two-year study recently released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge) concluded that hybrid vehicles that combine a battery with a fuel cell or internal combustion engine will offer the most environmentally friendly automotive technology when fuel production and vehicle manufacturing and operation are taken into account. The report, entitled “On the Road in 2020”, is available online at http://web.mit.edu/energylab/www. (C&EN, Oct. 30, 2000, p 33)

New Test for Antibiotic Susceptibility. Researchers at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Canada) and the Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina) have developed a method for testing antibiotic susceptibility using chronoamperometric and chronocoulometric measurements of ferricyanide reduction, as it takes place in bacterial respiration. The usual determination of antibiotic resistance uses cell growth as an indicator of susceptibility. These researchers use cell respiration, as monitored by the reduction of ferricyanide to ferricyanide, as the indicator of cell viability. (Anal. Chem., Nov. 1, 2000, p 682A)

Carbosiloxane Polymers for Chemical Sensors. Sorbent polymers are critical to sensory array or “electronic nose” systems. The responses of the sensors in the array give rise to patterns that can be used to distinguish one compound from another, as long as a sufficiently diverse set of sensing materials is present in the array. Each sensor has a different coating, each giving a response to a given analyte. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) and the Michigan Molecular Institute (Midland, MI) have worked out an approach to developing sorbent polymers—using hydrosilylation as the bond-forming reaction—with diverse interactive properties for sensor applications. The chemical and physical properties of the polymers are tunable by design. (Chemical Innovation, Nov. 2000, p 29)

Nicotine Metabolite is a Carcinogen Precursor. An aminoketone metabolite has been found to be a precursor to a known N-nitroso carcinogen. According to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center (Minneapolis), the metabolite could provide a direct link between nicotine and lung cancer. The metabolite is the result of a previously unrecognized pathway of nicotine metabolism in humans. The carcinogen can be readily formed from the aminoketone by reaction with nitric oxide. Nitric oxide levels are elevated in smokers. However, conversion of the aminoketone to the carcinogen in humans has yet to be demonstrated. (C&EN, Oct. 30, 2000, p 33)


Accident Thesaurus Online. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has assembled an interactive database of accident-related laws, regulations, guidance documents, and risk assessment information from the European Union, individual European countries, the United States, Canada, and other OECD member countries. The Chemical Accident Risk Assessment Thesaurus is available at www.oecd.org/ehs/carat. (C&EN, Oct. 30, 2000, p 26)

Industrial and Manufacturing Product Information Online. ProductNews.com is a site that offers daily new product updates as well as a comprehensive database and search engine for finding industrial and manufacturing product information. It is located at www.productnews.com. (C&EN, Oct. 23, 2000, p 83)


2000 Nobel Prizes Awarded. The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Zhores I. Alferov (A.F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia), Herbert Kroemer (University of California–Santa Barbara), and Jack S. Kilby (Texas Instruments, Dallas). Alan J. Heeger (University of California–Santa Barbara), Alan G. MacDiarmid (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) and Hideki Shirakawa (University of Tsukuba, Japan) received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was presented to Arvid Carlsson (University of Göteborg, Sweden), Paul Greengard (The Rockefeller University, New York), and Eric Kandel (Columbia University, New York). The Nobel Prize in Literature went to the Chinese writer Gao Xingjian. Kim Dae Jung, president of South Korea, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea. The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences went to James J. Heckman (University of Chicago) and Daniel L. McFadden (University of California, Berkeley). (www.nobel.se)

2001 Cotton Medal Winner Selected. Samuel J. Danishefsky, professor of chemistry at Columbia University (New York), will receive the 2001 F. A. Cotton Medal presented by the ACS Texas A&M Section and the Texas A&M University (College Station) chemistry department. The Cotton Medal recognizes excellence in chemical research. (C&EN, Oct. 23, 2000, p 127)

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