Pharmagene sacks chief as profits fall

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The Independent Online

Pharmagene, the supplier of human tissue for use in drug research, has sacked its chief executive, a month after a profits warning.

Alastair Riddell, who had been at the helm for seven years and oversaw the company's flotation in 2000, was yesterday negotiating a pay-off of about £350,000. The shares traded above their flotation price of 285p only briefly. Yesterday, they closed up 1.25p at 30.25p.

Last month's double-dose of bad news proved the last straw for Mr Riddell. The company said the human tissue business had missed sales targets, and Pharmagene's experimental treatment for cystic fibrosis had failed in clinical trials.

Ronald Openshaw, brought in last year as finance director, will assume the chief executive role and is a front-runner to be the permanent replacement.

Mr Openshaw's first priorities include separating Pharmagene's in-house drug development work from the tissue services business and recruiting more sales staff.

Tissue services, which collects discarded human tissue from hospitals and uses it to help the development of drugs, moved into profit in 2003, but the company's strategy to establish itself as a drug developer in its own right has proved slow to progress.

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