Reshuffle to let Peptide target US

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The Independent Online
Peptide Therapeutics, the biotechnology group, is reshuffling its top management team just 15 months after coming to the market. John Brown, a former stockbroker, is moving up from finance director to become chief executive, replacing Alan Goodman, who becomes deputy chairman with a remit to develop the group's North American business. Gordon Cameron, who arrived from merchant bankers NM Rothschild last year, is to become finance director and Nick Higgins moves over from licensing director to commercial director.

Mr Brown described the changes as a realignment of roles. "The largest concentration of our customers are in the US... and we have found that telephone conferences have not been a substitute for having someone on the ground."

Mr Goodman would be targeting "any drug company with a market capitalisation of over $1bn" to sell the group's technology to, Mr Brown said. "He is good at doing deals - that is what turns him on."

The news came as Peptide announced losses for the year to December had grown from pounds 3.61m to pounds 4.59m. But the figures were in line with market expectations and the shares added 2p to 335p yesterday.

The group said its net cash and liquid resources had fallen from pounds 27m to pounds 20.6m during the 12 months, but had since risen to pounds 27.4m after recent alliances with Medeva and SmithKline Beecham. The cash "burn" was on target at pounds 6.4m last year. Research and development expenditure came in at pounds 5m, while capital expenditure was pounds 2m. The group has leased and equipped a further 3,500 square feet of laboratory space in the Cambridge Science Park and has consolidated all operations on one site. Mr Brown said they had "no immediate plans" to raise more money.

The group's main near-term prospect is an allergy vaccine with general applicability, including food allergies, bee stings, juvenile asthma and hay fever. This product, at the centre of the deal with SmithKline, could be attacking a pounds 5bn market by the turn of the century.

But analysts are most excited about Peptide's technology base. The group's RAPiD combinatorial chemistry product provides a new way of developing protease inhibitors, used in the battle against Aids but also a factor in many other diseases. Glaxo Wellcome is thought to be interested in the technology.