The Week in Chemistry: US PE contracts for March up US$0.03/lb, PP contracts mostly up US$0.08/lb, US chemical railcar traffic for week ended April 8 down 10.3% year-over-year; AI models offer new possibilities in biochemistry with protein design

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LOS ANGELES , April 14, 2023 () –

US Resins

US PE producers unexpectedly achieve a sought-after US$0.03/lb contract increase in March.

Now, producers are pushing for another US$0.05/lb increase in April. Industry experts expect prices to at least hold steady.

PE export offers were also higher at the start of April, encouraged by rising crude oil prices, in addition to worker shortages at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Domestic PE production has been limited by ongoing force majeure conditions, which could lend validity to an April contract increase. However, industry analysts say it is unusual to see two consecutive months of increases.

Meanwhile, PP buyers took advantage of declining prices to do some restocking in the week of April 3.

March PP contracts mostly settled upward by US$0.08/lb in line with the polymer-grade propylene cost increase.

April PP contract proposals have been heard up by US$0.03/lb.

The primary source of this information is Plastics Today.

 

North America Chemical Railcar Traffic

North American chemical railcar traffic during the week ended April 8 fell by 9.3% year-over-year to 44,298 loadings.

Traffic in the US led the decline, down 10.3% year-over-year.

Year-to-date on April 8, North American chemical traffic fell 3.9% year-over-year to 634,833 loadings, while US traffic fell 7.0% to 450,701 loadings.

The primary source of this information is MRC.

 

AI and Protein Design

Researchers in protein design are quickly working to take advantage of growing artificial intelligence capabilities, including language models, to assist in the creation of new shapes and functional molecules.

The molecules can serve a wide range of functions in biochemistry.

Recent improvements in technology have opened up the possibility of designing proteins from scratch, rather than modifying existing proteins.

At Spain’s Institute of Molecular Biology of Barcelona, researcher Noelia Ferruz has created ProtGPT2, a modified version of ApenAI’s GPT-2 language model.

Ferruz’s program is now among several language models that are used for protein design, including startup Profluen, which received US$9 million in seed funding in January.

Meanwhile, University of Washington researchers led by David Baker have used a diffusion algorithm rather than a language model.

According to generative protein design specialist Namrata Anand at Diffuse Bio, varying methods could complement one another.

Still, the programs can occasionally create a protein that isn’t “grammatically correct”, much like some image-creating AI platforms have struggled to create accurate images of human hands.

Ultimately, the AI-generated proteins must be placed in a biochemically realistic environment to see if they will function, says John Ingraham at Generate Biomedicines.

In the future, Ferruz hopes design functions will become advanced enough to create enzymes suited for specific purposes, such as CO2 capture.

The primary source of this information is Chemical & Engineering News.

 

 

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