Clinphone nets founders pounds 3.3m

Two former hospital doctors who set up a company a year ago aimed at revolutionising clinical trials for new drugs will both pocket over pounds 1m after selling a third of the firm to institutions, writes John Willcock.

Neil Rotherham and Jonathan Engler are selling a third of their private company Clinphone to Mercury Asset Management's private equity division and HSBC Private Equity for pounds 3.3m.

The duo, who worked as doctors until four years ago, have developed an automated phone system which should cut the time taken to test new drugs.

Currently doctors involved in such trials have to fill in lengthy forms with their results, and the money tied up in such long-term trials are immense. Under Clinphone's system this bureaucracy is replaced by touch- tone phones. The doctors involved simply punch in their answers to a series of questions directly to the pharmaceutical company concerned.

This cuts the time taken for the trials and consequently increases the period during which the drug's patent can keep earning the pharmaceutical company money.

Jeremy Sharman, a director of MAM, says Clinphone is "one of the fastest growing companies I have ever been involved with. The projected figures are very bullish".

While the company will only complete its first trading year in February, it already has a blue chip client list which includes Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham, says Mr Sharman. The company is based in Nottingham and employs around 20 people. It was launched last year with a couple of hundred thousand pounds of family money.

Mr Sharman said it was possible the business may float either in London or New York, possibly in three years' time.

The Clinphone interactive phone technology already has 14 different languages in use in 30 countries. The company claims the system is efficient in ensuring that the patients being tested are randomly recruited, which is vital in clinical trials.