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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week