Industry Briefs

The Du Pont Co. may be its own best client for its own new venture: an innovative enterprise dedicated to cleaning contaminated groundwater and soil. Allies in the endeavor are two smaller companies: Biosystems, a Chester, Pa., firm specializing in groundwater clean-up and Dallas-based Halliburton Co., an engineering consulting firm to the petroleum industry. The three will operate jointly as DuPont Biosystems, employing microbiologists, chemists, environmental engineers, and geologists—

May 16, 1988

The Du Pont Co. may be its own best client for its own new venture: an innovative enterprise dedicated to cleaning contaminated groundwater and soil. Allies in the endeavor are two smaller companies: Biosystems, a Chester, Pa., firm specializing in groundwater clean-up and Dallas-based Halliburton Co., an engineering consulting firm to the petroleum industry. The three will operate jointly as DuPont Biosystems, employing microbiologists, chemists, environmental engineers, and geologists—and get to work right in the corporate backyard.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ordered Du Pont to pay $39 million to clean up. groundwater that had been polluted by one of its New Jersey plants. The settlement has been described as the largest by one company for a single location in the United States, so Du Pont Biosystems, a consultant to the project, will be wielding a large broom.

Nearly a decade after they discovered the cholesterol-lowering compound lovastatin, four Merck & Co. scientists have been honored with the 1988 Inventor of the Year Award. Alfred W. Alberts, Georg Albers-Schönenberg, Richard L. Monaghan, and the estate of Carl H. Hoffman shared the $4,000 award from Intellectual Property Owners, a nonprofit association representing people who own patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Although the drug had captured the attention of the scientific and medical communities almost 10 years ago, it was not eligible to be " considered for the award until it received Food and Drug Administration approval last year.

Has the award affected the researchers’ lives at Merck? With a touch of irony, Alberts notes that now there’s more pressure to discover the next drug.

Eager to unveil cures for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems? To probe the secrets of bone metabolism and blood plasma? Between now and 1991, the Rorer Group Inc— a Philadelphia-based pharmaceutical firm—aims to increase its research and development staff at a rate of 100 people per year, split evenly between technicians and scientists. Furthermore, the company is building a new facility that it hopes will fire the researchers’ ingenuity. "We’re trying to create a college-campus type of environment... that we think will be conducive to the creative and scientific processes," says vice president Randy Thurman. Construction of the 750,000-square-foot research facility in suburban Philadelphia is expected to start this summer, with completion scheduled for late 1991.

The deal serves two purposes: It brings in cash and keeps Biogen NV., a biotech firm based in Cambridge, Mass., out of a business it wants to avoid. Last month, Biogen licensed Smith Kline-RIT, a Belgian unit of Philadelphia-based SmithKline Beckman Corp., to manufacture and sell its genetically engineered hepatitis B vaccine in the U.S. and all other countries except Japan. And it is permitting a growing list of companies—such as F. Hoffman-La Roche and Co., Ltd., the European company Dako, and Japan’s Green Cross—to sell its diagnostic products.

The company agrees that the revenue to come from the licensing agreements, estimated by Biogen at between $20 million and $40 million, is significant. However, the anticipated income is not the only reason the company made this move. "Regardless of what our cash situation was," says a spokesman, "we would not go into the vaccine business." Biogen wants to concentrate on therapeutic, rather than preventive, medicine.


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