Scientists Convert Methane Directly Into Methanol

A team of researchers have developed a method of converting methane directly into methanol and acetic acid for the first time.

A team of researchers have developed a method of converting methane directly into methanol and acetic acid for the first time. Previously, it was only possible to convert methane into chemicals in stages. The new technique involves using a gold catalyst to directly convert the methane, The Chemical Engineer reports.

The team is led by Cardiff University, who used a catalyst made from gold, and reacted methane with oxygen close to the catalyst. It is the first time that this had been attempted without the presence of a co-reductant. As the scientists predicted, methanol was produced, but unexpectedly, also acetic acid.

Both methanol and acetic acid have useful purposes, and previous methods of producing them were expensive and energy intensive. Methanol is used as a biofuel, and is a component in other chemicals.  Acetic acid is used to make textile inks, pesticides, plastics, and pharmaceuticals.

Graham Hutchings, Regius Professor of Chemistry from the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said: “The oxidation of methane, the main component of natural gas, to selectively form oxygenated chemical intermediates using molecular oxygen has been a long-standing grand challenge in catalysis.”

He added: “We have successfully demonstrated this for the very first time in this study, providing an important first step towards the creation of important fuels and chemicals in a simple and cost-effective way.”

Demand for methanol is likely to increase in the future, as the government continues to pursue its low-carbon fuel (LCF) strategy. Argus Media reports that a new consultation has begun on LFCs, and will conclude on 3 April. It aims to determine which production pathways should be prioritised, in order to reduce demand for fossil fuels.

Demand for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is expected to increase, with around 4-8% of the world’s supply being met with SAF by 2035.

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New Direction For Research Into Drugs For Inflammatory Conditions

Those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and asthma, could be given new treatment options in the future.

Those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and asthma, could be given new treatment options in the future that are based on a peptide found in the venomous toadfish (Thalassophryne nattereri).

News Medical Life Sciences reported on research conducted by scientists in Brazil, who have confirmed that the peptide in question – TnP – has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic potential. What this means in practice is that more research will be conducted to see how TnP could be used in drug development.

Using zebrafish, where are commonly used as a model for in vivo trials in drug development, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the peptide is safe.

The news provider also noted that studies conducted on mice between 2013 and 2015 have demonstrated that TnP can be used to treat MS, in that it was observed to delay the onset of severe symptoms as well as improve the clinical signs of the disease.

MS targets the central nervous system, causing muscle weakness, pain, vision loss and reduced motor control.

One of the challenges of treating MS is that we still don’t know what causes it. Research published earlier this year by the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research highlighted which type of nerve cells people with MS lose.

This is important, because knowing which of the body’s nerves are most affected by MS will allow researchers to develop treatments targeted to protect them.

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Why Is Dry Ice Suddenly So Important

Dry ice has lately become a focal point in the news, as it’s unique properties mean it can keep things very cold without the melted mess of regular ice.

You’ve likely heard of dry ice before, or maybe had a fancy cocktail that has it bubbling away. But dry ice has lately become a focal point in the news, as it’s unique properties mean it can keep things very cold without the melted mess of regular ice.

The BioNtech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine needs to be stored and transported at -70ºC, and dry ice is the perfect medium to ensure the life-saving drugs are usable when they reach their destination. However, Reuters reports that the urgency for dry ice in the US has caused a national shortage, hampering efforts to transport the vaccine to rural areas.

But what exactly is dry ice? Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, and it’s surface temperature of -78.5ºC means that when it melts it transforms directly into a gas, skipping the liquid phase completely – hence ‘dry’ ice.

Because it doesn’t melt and can be produced in solid blocks or pellets, it is the ideal choice in the transportation of foods and medicines.

It is so cold, that it needs to be handled with special gloves to avoid frostbite, and it needs adequate ventilation as the gaseous CO2 can be hazardous in enclosed spaces.

Of the vaccines for the coronavirus being developed, the Pfizer and Moderna candidates have led the charge, and the Pfizer vaccine is already being used in the UK. The Moderna vaccine can survive in temperatures between 2ºC to 8ºC for up to 30 days.

However, the Pfizer vaccine needs much more advanced refrigeration and needs to be stored at -70ºC. This is where the urgent need for dry ice comes in, to ensure the correct temperatures are maintained during transportation and storage before it is distributed.

Once the vaccines reach their destination, Pfizer says they can be refrigerated for up to five days in a warmer temperature range of 2ºC to 8ºC, the same range as the Moderna vaccine. But once thawed, the Pfizer vaccines can’t be frozen again. 

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NICE Approves Chronic Migraine Drug For NHS England

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently published its final draft guidance that recommends the use of a new treatment for preventing chronic migraines on the NHS in England.

Fremanezumab, which is also known as Ajovy, is made by Teva Pharmaceuticals and is now set to be offered to adults where at least three previous preventative treatments have failed to stop chronic migraines.

NICE revealed that the clinical trial evidence shows that fremanezumab is more effective than best supporting care in people within this group.

Teva Pharmaceuticals also submitted new evidence indicating that the treatment may also be beneficial to people who suffer from chronic migraines and for whom treatment with botulinum toxin type A has been ineffective.

The firm has offered a discount on the list price of the drug, which costs £5,000 a year, to allow it to be offered to patients through the NHS in England.

NICE director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation Meindert Boysen said that the organisation is “pleased” Teva Pharmaceuticals was able to work with NICE to address its concerns that were highlighted in the previous draft guidance.

“Chronic migraines are extremely debilitating and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life,” he asserted.

Having access to this treatment when several other medications have failed could therefore have a significant positive impact on patients who suffer from chronic migraines.

Fremanezumab works by targeting the process by which proteins cause blood vessels in the brain to swell, which leads to the symptoms associated with migraines. Patients receive it as a monthly self-administered injection.

The NICE guidance also states that treatment with fremanezumab should be stopped, however, if a patient doesn’t experience at least a 30 per cent reduction in the frequency of their migraines within 12 weeks of starting treatment.

In the USA last month, the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for the use of Nurtec ODT, also known as rimegepant, for relieving pain after the onset of a migraine.

The oral pill, which was developed by Biohaven, “can provide fast pain relief, return patients to normal function within an hour and remain effective for up to 48 hours for many patients”, Reuters reported.

The news provider also revealed that rimegepant is being investigated for its use in preventing migraines as well as relieving symptoms once a migraine has started.

According to Biohaven, 86 per cent of patients who were treated with a single dose of the pill didn’t use migraine rescue medication in the following 24 hours.

Vlad Coric, chief executive officer at the firm, told Reuters: “We think there’s a value-add for payers and patients by not having to pay for two different drugs – one for acute and one for prevention.”

With a greater number of migraine drugs becoming available, and further research being conducted in this area, patients who suffer from these debilitating headaches will no doubt be hopeful that they are able to benefit from the advances in this kind of medication.

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NHS Highland Launches Campaign On Antibiotic Awareness

European Antibiotic Awareness Day is taking place on 18 November this year and NHS Highland intends to launch a video to raise awareness about the threat that antibiotic resistance presents.

Strathspey Herald reported that a video, entitled ‘Antibiotics and You’ will be released to mark the day. The video has been produced by Talking Medicines in partnership with the Pebble Trust and is aimed at patients.

It will cover information about when to take antibiotics, the importance of following a full course of antibiotics and sticking to the correct regime when taking them, antibiotic resistance and how to safely dispose of medicines.

Consultant in pharmaceutical public health at NHS Highland Sharon Pfleger told the news provider that it’s important people don’t take antibiotics when they don’t need them, as this could mean they won’t work for you or others in the future.

Antibiotic over-prescription also has a negative effect on the environment and wildlife, she added.

“The latest data confirms that across the European Union the number of patients infected by resistant bacteria is increasing so it is vital to spread the message to health professionals and the public that we all have a role to play in helping to keep antibiotics effective for the use of future generations,” Ms Pfleger asserted.

A new report published this month in the US has highlighted the scale of the problem when it comes to antibiotic resistance.

The US Center for Disease Prevention and Control revealed that approximately 35,000 people in the USA die from antibiotic resistant infections each year. While this figure has fallen from the number estimated in 2013, there is still a long way to go to control such infections.

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Nanotechnology Aiding Chemotherapy Delivery

Chemotherapy has long been a treatment for cancer, but it’s also well-known that it’s difficult to deliver precisely the right levels of drugs to patients consistently.

The challenge for doctors is that they can’t see how the chemotherapy drugs are being delivered within the body. Provide too high a concentration to patients and you risk killing off healthy cells and tissue. Provide too low a concentration to patients and this could simply stun rather than kill the cancer cells, allowing them to come back, in many cases stronger.

But Nano Magazine recently reported on a breakthrough that could help doctors keep patients’ chemotherapy treatments within the optimum level.

Using a process based on magnetic particle imaging (MPI), Bryan Smith, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan State University, has found a non-invasive way for doctors to see how the drug is released in the body and make sure it’s going to the site of the tumour.

The process that’s been created uses superparamagnetic nanoparticles to provide a signal source for the drug delivery. It’s also a contrast agent, which allows doctors to visualise where drug delivery is taking place.

Mr Smith explained that this technique could allow doctors to adjust the level of drugs being administered in real-time. “That way, they could precisely ensure each patient remains within the therapeutic window,” he asserted.

Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Birmingham found that an anti-malarial drug could make chemotherapy treatments more effective.

Quinacrine has been found to be particularly effective in improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy delivered to those suffering from head and neck cancer.

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AstraZeneca Has Success With New Leukaemia Treatment

AstraZeneca has announced that its Phase III ELEVATE-TN trial of Calquence (acalabrutinib) has concluded with positive results.

Calquence is an existing treatment that’s being explored as an option for patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), which is the most common form of blood cancer in adults.

The organisation announced that Calquence in combination with obinutuzumab “demonstrated statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) when compared with the chemotherapy-based combination of chlorambucil and obinutuzumab”.

Jose Baselga, executive vice president of oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, said that the positive results from this trial, as well as the ASCEND trials that the firm carried out earlier in the year with Calquence, will “form the basis for regulatory submissions later this year”.

He also said that the data from the ELEVATE-TN trial “confirms the superiority of Calquence as a monotherapy and also in combination over standard-of-care treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia”.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already granted accelerated approval for Calquence for the treatment of adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) who have already had at least one treatment for the condition.

It’s estimated that there are around 191,000 new cases of CLL diagnosed each year, so a new treatment for the disease could have a positive impact on thousands of people.

The NHS notes that the earlier CLL is diagnosed, the better the outcome for the patient. However, the organisation points out that it’s not normally possible to cure CLL, although the condition can be controlled using medication for many years.

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Scancell Advances R&D In Immuno-Oncology

The research and development (R&D) activities of Scancell have been put in the spotlight by Proactive Investors, with the website doing a deep dive on the company and its prospects.

The news provider noted that the firm is showing promise with two projects in the field of immuno-oncology, it’s ImmunoBody and Moditope treatments.

ImmunoBody is set to enter its Phase 2 clinical study this year. This will focus on its SCIB1 drug that is being used in conjunction with Merck’s Keytruda checkpoint inhibitor as a treatment for advanced melanoma.

SCIB1 works by targeting and stimulating the existing cells that form the body’s defence mechanisms.

Scancell’s Moditope vaccine – Modi-1 – has been touted as a potential treatment for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as sarcoma; and is expected to begin its clinical trials in 2019. The firm has also created Modi-2, which the company believes can be used to fight tumours that suppress the immune system.

It’s also developed Modi-3, which was an important part of the firm’s collaboration with BioNTech, Genentech and ISA Pharmaceuticals. Named Project Blueprint, the initiative put Modi-3 at the heart of its treatment for tackling established tumours as part of Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenge.

Another company to watch in the field of immuno-oncology is Grey Wolf, with Pharma Times recently reporting that the firm has completed its £10 million series A financing, which it will use to develop immuno-oncology therapies that can increase the visibility of tumours.

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Japanese Company Produces ‘Stress-Scent Beating Deodorant’

When seeking a pharmaceutical alcohol supplier to create a new deodorant product for your cosmetics range, having a special scent or unique selling point behind the idea will help it to stand out in what is a busy marketplace.

For Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido, their idea was to create a scent which specifically targets and covers the scent which is produced when you’re stressed. But what does that smell like exactly?

According to research conducted by the brand, it smells like onion. They took a sample of 40 women and put them in the stressful situation of meeting someone for the first time. After the meeting, they ‘collected gas samples’ for the women’s skin, according to Japan Today, and noticed that two chemical compounds, allyl mercaptan and dimethyl trisulfide, were elevated.

The combination of these chemicals the brand has referred to as ‘stress smell’ and created their deodorant to counteract it. Japan is the perfect market for this product, as not only are the workers there the most stressed in the world, there is also a particular issue with ‘smell harassment’ – basically anti-social smells in the workplace. This could be tobacco, food, perfume or just simply body odour, but with a trend for women in the workplace in Japan proving ‘sensitive’ to the smells of male co-workers, it’s a Zeitgeist issue that the brand is tapping into.

Shiseido has form for discovering certain smells, and has also discovered a specific  ‘old age smell’ and a deodorant to counteract it.