Noble joins biotech fledgling

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The Independent Online
James Noble, who in February unexpectedly quit his job as finance director of British Biotech leaving behind share option profits of pounds 2.8m, is to become a non-executive director at Innovative Technologies Group.

He will help the fledgling medical technology group develop a corporate strategy to see it through its development phase and arrange deals with international drugs groups.

Mr Noble said yesterday he was looking at other non-executive positions in biotech groups and had also taken on a part-time executive role at a small start-up company in the sector.

He and fellow directors of British Biotech, the UK's leading group in the biotechnology sector, courted controversy when in December 1995 they exercised options after the shares had soared on the back of very early stage results for the company's Marimastat anti-cancer drug.

After the original pounds 1.7m profit from that deal, Mr Noble exercised further options which netted him pounds 2.5m after walking away from British Biotech earlier this year. Even so his sudden departure from the company caused surprise in some quarters, given the large amount of potential option profits he was leaving behind.

The former City merchant banker with Kleinwort Benson said yesterday: "It was a bit of a brave thing to do, but everyone said I was crazy when I left Kleinworts."

He said he now believed his job was complete at British Biotech after last July's pounds 143m rights issue, the proceeds of which are expected to see the group through until first sales of Marimastat, although he added that he had wanted to complete the marketing deal with Tanabe of Japan, finally sealed at the end of last year.

Mr Noble will pick up pounds 20,000 a year from his post with Innovative Technology. As a non-executive director, he is banned by the Greenbury code on corporate pay from picking up any more share options, but Keith Gilding, chief executive, said he would probably "work out a way of giving him some sort of success- related fee".

The company, which in March raised pounds 4.1m in a placing, has developed what it claims are new cost-effective ways of dressing wounds. The three main products include a leg ulcer bandage based on alginate derived from seaweed and a polyurethane film which it is claimed will allow wounds to breathe more effectively .

The group announced that losses deepened from pounds 2.7m to pounds 3.99m in the year to December, on turnover raised from pounds 190,000 to pounds 1.44m.