NMT, one of the early leaders in the race to develop syringes with retractable needles, yesterday said a lack of orders had forced it to shut its Scottish manufacturing plant and lay off 140 of its 155 employees.
The company gave up trying to sell the hi-tech but expensive syringes to hospitals two years ago, but had been making them on behalf of the pharmaceutical giant Roche, which was distributing an Aids drug in pre-filled syringes.
The factory, in Livingston, near Edinburgh, was losing £4m a year and NMT warned in August that its future depended on Roche's requirements beyond 2003. It is understood that Roche did not renew its order for next year, and no other customers could be found. NMT shares, which hit 109p in 1999, fell 42 per cent to 1.01p on yesterday's news.
The company has developed a second generation syringe which it hopes will prove more cost effective and the company said it was in discussion with potential partners for the project.
Gerard Cassels, the finance director, said: "Several companies have tried to develop a retractable syringe but none has achieved the nirvana. There has been increasing interest in our technology and I will be very confident there is a good chance of a deal until someone else comes up with a technology that is significantly better than ours."