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Cerebrus clinches Swiss biotech deal and agrees to takeover by Vanguard

THE UNQUOTED British biotechnology sector received a shot in the arm yesterday as Cerebrus, a privately-owned neurology group, clinched a deal with Hoffman-La Roche, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group, and agreed to a takeover by Vanguard, the listed pharma tiddler.

Cerebrus, part owned by biotechnology entrepreneur Chris Evans, is to license its serotonin receptor programme, which assists the treatment of obesity, to Hoffman-La Roche. The Swiss company is to fund development and commercialisation of the treatment, while Cerebrus will receive milestone payments. Hoffman-La Roche is already a world leader in obesity treatments.

Cerebrus will receive a share of royalties of any resulting product, but revenues are not anticipated until the latter half of the next decade. Vanguard Medica is buying Cerebrus for shares worth pounds 9.6m, less than half a previous offer it is thought to have made.Dr George Poste, the chairman, will leave Cerebrus.

The deal will ease the pressure on Vanguard, which suffered a setback last month when the US Food and Drug Administration demanded that it repeat early-stage trials for frovatriptan, a migraine drug.

The deal paves the way for further acquisitions of private research outfits by the quoted biotechs, which are already in the throes of consolidation. Prolifix, an Oxfordshire-based cancer research company, was tipped as a possible target yesterday; Eli Lilly, the US pharmaceuticals group, took a stake in the company in October.