Fine Chemicals–The Industry and the Business

Fine Chemicals–The Industry and the Business

by Peter Pollak

John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2007

ISBN 978-0-470-05075-0

reviewed by Alan Smith

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This is a really excellent book, as one might expect from Peter Pollak, who has a wealth of experience in fine chemicals. The first section of this three-part book, “The Industry,” begins with essential definitions for commodities, specialty chemicals, and fine chemicals, before considering the technologies involved, the manufacturers and their facilities, R&D, and challenges being faced. The notes and comments added in smaller print are especially welcome, providing examples and small case studies to illustrate points made in the main text. Also provided is a fascinating insight into all the dramatic changes in this sector, including mergers and acquisitions and the growth of Chinese and Indian companies.

The second part, “The Business,” focuses on the main markets and strategies for fine chemicals, with emphasis on pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. This section discusses the best targets to focus on and provides particularly useful comments on pricing, intellectual property rights, and contracts. Throughout the book, the author tables the pros and cons of decisions facing those involved in fine chemicals.

The final part, “Outlook,” examines the trends and future growth by industry segment, with interesting tables and speculation on patent expirations. Increasing manufacturing costs for European companies, through the implementation of REACH (registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals) legislation, is predicted to have a major effect on activities in Europe. Scenarios for cooperation between Asian and Western fine chemical companies are explored. The author concludes by giving a rating scheme for European companies to judge how fit they are for the future.

Although the decrease in demand for fine chemicals for the agrochemical sector, brought about by GM crops, is discussed, it is too early to consider the effect of new technologies on fine chemicals for the pharmaceutical sector. Perhaps the next edition could speculate about the impact nanotechnology is starting to have on healthcare. Reformulation of drugs at the nanoscale is just beginning to provide lower loading of “actives,” and new concepts for accurate targeting of specific sites are being examined. A lot of research is being conducted in nanotechnology-based diagnostics, which potentially will detect diseases before they have taken a hold on the body. These will surely affect the fine chemical industry.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is working in the fine chemical industry or is in any way connected with it. Peter Pollak has provided an in-depth review in a logical style that is both easy to read and extremely


Dr. Alan Smith <> is a former director of BDH/Merck, where he ran the Advanced Materials business, which included liquid crystals. He was also head of Group Technology for Laporte during its growth in specialty chemicals. Smith is a member of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry and Industry and an elected member from the UK on the IUPAC Bureau.

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