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Biotech firms given draft code

THE UK'S biotechnology industry was yesterday presented with a draft code of best practice to which it is expected to subscribe from the end of October.

However, the code, prepared by the BioIndustry Association, does not oblige companies to disclose more information about their drugs than do existing London Stock Exchange rules. "We are setting out principles, not rules," said Robert Mansfield, chairman of the BIA.

"The interpretation that we are going to bring a big whip to the industry is wrong." The code requires biotechs to publish information about their drugs that may be price sensitive only at an "appropriate" time, and to the London Stock Exchange in the first instance.

Mr Mansfield said that meant there would be less disclosure of information. "We want to stop leaks to lawyers and bankers," he said. "It would be sensible for companies to remain silent whilst in communication with regulators." The BIA said it was shareholders' responsibility to ensure that biotech companies comply with the code. Last month the London Stock Exchange censured British Biotech for issuing misleading announcements on the prospects of one of its drugs whilst it was still seeking regulatory approval. The scandal might not have happened if the code had existed in 1997 and shareholders had enforced it, Mr Mansfield said.