Celltech regroups after Pfizer fallout

Shares in Celltech jumped yesterday on hopes the biotech company could become a takeover target after it regained the rights to market its most advanced new drug.

Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical group, signalled last month that it would drop the product, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis codenamed CDP870, unless Celltech agreed to a dramatically lower share of the profits.

Celltech said yesterday that it had refused Pfizer's demands and the partnership would be dissolved by February. The UK group will now decide whether to re-license the drug immediately or to spend an estimated $100m (£58m) conducting the last of the human trials needed.

Celltech, which is believed to have attracted takeover interest from the Swiss biotech group Serono, promised a decision on CDP870's future early in the new year.

Goran Ando, Celltech's chief executive, said he would "start returning calls" from a number of biotech and pharmaceutical companies which had expressed an interest in bankrolling CDP870 since the dispute with Pfizer became public.

Shareholders might be better served by Celltech investing in the further rheumatoid arthritis trials itself, he said. "We generate £50m of cash a year, so we can handle all the permutations," Mr Ando said. Celltech shares rose 23.5p to 375p yesterday.

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