Oxford begins hunt for new chief exec

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The Independent Online

Oxford Glycosciences, the biotech company developing a treatment for Gaucher's disease, has begun the search for a new chief executive after Michael Kranda said he wanted to leave later this year.

The announcement of his decision yesterday coincided with a City presentation on its drug research and development work, an update which signalled further progress to bolster its drug pipeline but which sent OGS shares down 9 per cent.

Mr Kranda, who has been with the company for six years, has a young family in Seattle, which has been unable to relocate near the company's Oxford headquarters due to his son's medical condition.

"If they moved the company to Seattle, I'd stay, but no one seems willing to do that," he said. "I don't want to tell you how many transatlantic trips I do a month, it's embarrassing."

OGS has appointed headhunters to look for a replacement, but analysts said the changeover heralds a period of uncertainty which could deter investors.

The shares dipped 37.5p to 385p, as analysts signalled their disappointment that the research update included no news on Vevesca, the drug for Gaucher's disease, a condition in which the body becomes unable to break down fat. OGS shares have fallen 36 per cent so far this year on fears over the safety profile of the drug, and the stock is to be demoted from the FTSE 250 to small-cap status next week.

The update also showed that OGS's most developed drug prospects after Vevesca have been identified in collaboration with its research partners, rather than through OGS's own proteomics technology, for which it raised £170m in 2000.