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Chinese chemists synthesize compounds for BASF’s crop protection discovery research


BASF’s Agricultural Products division cooperates successfully in research with external partners

Cooperation with partners throughout the world is an important aspect of the research strategy of BASF. The company spends nearly €100 million a year on a current total of 1,300 cooperations. One of them, a cooperative arrangement that has been in place for more than a year with Chinese company WuXi Pharmatech in Shanghai, has proven so fruitful that the number of chemists working there for BASF has now been increased to more than 20. The Agricultural Products division of BASF engages its Chinese partner to synthesize chemical compounds that are needed in the wide-ranging search for new active ingredients. The subsequent modification of the new substances and their screening for biological effectiveness are then conducted in the central research units at Ludwigshafen and Limburgerhof.

”Purchasing new substances for primary screening and building blocks for synthesis from external partners on the one hand and focusing our internal efforts on developing promising compounds for crop protection active ingredients on the other hand is successful and has stood the test of time,“ says Dr. Peter Eckes, Senior Vice President Agricultural Products Research and Development. “We work with 10 external partners - some of them for several years already - who synthesize new compounds for us.“ Global crop-protection research is the first unit of BASF to work together with a Chinese company in an extensive synthesis cooperation.

The development of innovative products and processes – including new crop protection active ingredients – is indispensable for the profitable growth of BASF. Before identifying an agent that promises to be successful, many thousands of chemical compounds must be run through the numerous optimization cycles each year in the Agricultural Products division. If a new class of substances shows an interesting effect against harmful fungi, insects or weeds, its chemical structure is systematically modified. Then it is run once again through the cycle of chemical synthesis, screening and evaluation of results. An optimized lead structure emerges at the end of this process.

“Cooperation with external partners makes a valuable contribution to the efficient organization of our research processes,“ said Dr. Alfred Hackenberger, President Specialty Chemicals Research. “We enhance flexibility and can thus achieve even more with our research budget, for example by screening more substances in a shorter period of time. That is an important success factor because only a few of those substances turn out to be successful crop-protection active ingredients.”

All external partners are extensively assessed to make sure that no know-how leaks out and that no potentially new active ingredients are jeopardized. Success factors in cooperation are unconditional reliability and open communication. In addition, product quality and synthetic competence are evaluated because BASF must be able to depend on its partners to do as much as it itself would when trying to solve tricky problems.


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