Powderject to finalise needle-free technology sale

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The Independent Online

Powderject, the Oxford biotech company that has turned itself into the world's sixth-largest maker of vaccines through acquisitions, has received 20 expressions of interest in its needle-free syringe technology, which it put up for sale last month.

The company is understood to be finalising the details of the sale process, with a disposal to be completed by the year end.

Powderject is keen to solicit a joint venture deal, in which it could retain a significant interest in the needle-free injection technology on which the company was founded a decade ago.

The company is keeping the rights to develop the technology for use with vaccines, where it has been discovered to be most successful.

Suitors for the remains of the business are believed to include international companies specialising in novel drug delivery technologies and traditional pharmaceutical groups looking for new means of administering their existing drug products.

Analysts believe a deal will prove difficult. Some value the business at less than £25m after a series of technical setbacks.

Paul Drayson, Powderject's founder, chairman and chief executive, has come under fire for abandoning the technology to focus on vaccines. He has made a string of acquisitions including Evans Vaccines from Celltech in 1999 and Sweden's SBL Vaccin last month. Powderject now has major interests in flu, cholera and travellers' vaccines.

Mr Drayson insists the company's strategic U-turn will reduce shareholders' risk and speed Powderject's journey to profitability.

Powderject made a loss of £20.6m in the year to March and had £4.3m cash in the bank. Analysts now forecast break even later this year for the company with sales topping £100m.

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