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MPs back sacked British Biotech whistleblower

DR ANDREW MILLAR, the whistleblower sacked by British Biotech, scored a victory in his battle against the drug company yesterday when was backed by a number of MPs.

Despite issuing a cautious report, members of the Science and Technology Select Committee expressed their support for Dr Millar, the former head of clinical research at British Biotech.

He was sacked in April for breaking the secrecy on the trials of two of the company's star drugs, a cancer drug and a drug to treat pancreatitis - a procedure known as "unblinding". He also raised doubts on their efficacy to one of British Biotech's shareholders. The events have undermined investors' confidence in the sector, triggering a slump in biotechnology stocks.

Dr Alan Williams, a Labour member of the committee, said: "I was impressed with Dr Millar's oral and written evidence and my feeling is that what he did and said was in the public interest." Dr Ian Gibson, another member, said: " He is an excellent scientist ... If I had been in Millar's position I would have probably done the same."

The comments contrasted with the anodyne tone of the report, issued yesterday after a three-month inquiry into the effects of the controversy on the biotechnology industry.

The report said that, although unblinding trials was "ethically questionable ... Dr Millar's actions in briefing [the shareholder], while certainly unusual, seem more the product of difficulties at British Biotech than the origin of them".

However, it added that it was not the committee's role "to pass judgement on alleged misdemeanours".