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Trial failures threaten UK biotech

Published on 18/02/11 at 07:30am

A number of late stage failures from British biotech firms have left a looming question mark over the future of the UK industry.

The latest comes from Manchester-based Renovo and late-stage trials of its anti-scarring treatment Juvista, which did not meet its primary or secondary endpoints.

Whilst expressing surprise at the phase III results, Renovo’s chief executive Mark Ferguson said the company would “consider all other options” mitigate the effects of the news.

But the failure of its most advanced product saw the markets react badly, and Renovo’s stock lost 75% of its value. 

Fellow UK biotech Antisoma has had an even worse year, with key lung cancer candidate ASA404, developed in conjunction with Novartis, failing for the second time in November, forcing it to drop the drug.

This was followed the failure of two potential treatments for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). AS1413 had been in phase III trials and, until last month AS1411 was being tested in a phase IIb trial for the condition.

Antisoma said AS1411 may still be have oncology applications, but did not believe it could reach phase III trials for AML, leaving the biotech firm with little left in its clinical pipeline to help offset these disappointments.

The climate for innovation in the UK was made even bleaker recently, with the announcement this month that Pfizer would close its R&D site in Sandwich, Kent, with the loss of around 2,000 jobs.

Ben Adams

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