Published: Tuesday 15 March 1994

US drug companies are responding to criticism of the high cost of prescription medicines by putting out a new message for consumers: "We are not out to fleece you. We are, in fact, toiling hard to 'discover' drugs that will cure terminal diseases". They have kicked off a television advertising blitz that is aimed at countering the plans of White House mandarins to impose price-controls on new drugs. "This will only reduce our ability to fund research," argues a spokesperson of Merck, a drug firm.

DANFOSS, the Denmark-based group manufacturing hydraulics, has found an alternative to oil -- water. The company has launched a programme of making hydraulic components based on water rather than oil. "Our products will be particularly suitable for the food and pharmaceutical industries, where hygiene is of primary concern. Water reduces pollution and waste disposal problems," says a Danfoss employee. Besides, Danfoss claims it has overcome problems such as corrosion that are known to be caused by water.

THE Swiss pharmaceutical firm Sandoz, is convinced that breakneck-pace research is the only way to drub the competition. However, rapid advances in biochemistry often leave in-house laboratories struggling to keep up. So, Sandoz has struck more than 30 research-oriented deals with independent biotechnology laboratories and companies that have just begun operations. The deals consume a tenth of its research and development budget. "And, the number will steadily rise," promises Urs Barlocher, chief executive of Sandoz.

ITS profits may have soared in the last year, but the owners of Intel, the US semiconductor-manufacturing company, are far from happy. IBM's decision not to manufacture Intel's latest Pentium superchip microprocessor has come as a blow. IBM has opted to focus it's investments on "PowerPC" microprocessors, which it developed with Motorola and Apple Computer. This, however, does not mean that Intel is about to be ousted from centrestage in the semiconductor industry. "In fact," declares Intel president Andrew Grove, "we are confident that Pentium processor-based units will represent 15 per cent of all PCs sold in the US this year."

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