Biotech plunges 17% as cancer drug fails

BRITISH BIOTECH yesterday added another chapter to its disastrous history when it revealed that its star anti-cancer drug had failed a key clinical trial.

Shares in the beleaguered drug company plunged over 17 per cent to an all-time low of 21.5p after it admitted that Marimastat, one of its most advanced compounds, did not work in the treatment of pancreatic tumours.

Industry experts said the result cast doubts over Marismatat's efficacy and could jeopardise a major part of British Biotech's clinical programme.

The failure of the 400-patient test is a huge blow for the company as it had been predicted over 15 months ago by Andrew Millar, the group's former head of clinical trials.

Mr Millar was sacked in April for looking at confidential data in the trial - a procedure known as "unblinding" - and for expressing concerns to shareholders over the efficacy of marimastat and the anti-pancreatitis compound Zacutex.

The affair sparked a bitter row between Mr Millar and the board, which caused a collapse in the share price from its peak of over pounds 3 and led to the departure of the chief executive, Keith McCullagh.

Mr Millar yesterday said: "We knew this in December 1997. I feel terribly sorry that the right management of a potential new drug was not undertaken."

The new chief executive, Elliot Goldstein, yesterday said that the study's negative results did not spell the end of Marimastat.

He said the test showed that the drug had failed its target of a 16 per cent reduction in death rates compared with an existing drug. However, he said pancreatic cancer was one of the most difficult cancers to treat and that further studies were needed to assess Marimastat's efficacy.

British Biotech was spending around half of its pounds 24m development budget to trial the drug on different forms of cancer in nine other studies and results were expected over the next 12 month. "We are not deciding to quit. The plan is to bring the nine studies to their end," Dr Goldstein said.

Peder Jensen, the development director, denied that the failure of the trials vindicated Dr Millar's actions. He said that when Dr Millar unblinded the study, he could not have predicted the outcome because the data was too scant. "He just happened to be right," Mr Jensen said.

Mr Millar, who is embroiled in a legal case with the company set to be heard in the High Court later this year, rejected the suggestion. "It is a virtual mathematical certainty that this was to happen".

He predicted that the other study he unblinded, a key trial for Zacutex, was also set to fail. The company said it would report on the trial before the end of next month.

City analysts said the result of the trial would prompt investors to reduce their estimates of Marimastat's future earnings. The drug was once hailed as a potential blockbuster with estimated sales of over $1bn a year.

However, a series of setbacks has prompted experts to revise sales predictions to $200m.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas