Results revive wilting shares in biotechs

Shares in Shield Diagnostics and PPL Therapeutics, two biotechnology- related companies, recovered some recent heavy losses yesterday after they announced encouraging results from trials of new products.

Shield soared 40p to 690p after it said British tests on its activated factor twelve (AFT) "point towards" it becoming a significant tool for the prediction of heart disease in the general population.

Separately, PPL saw its shares rise 20p to 447.5p on news that it had extended its transgenic drug creation technology to rabbits. The gain makes up some of the ground lost since the price jumped and then collapsed a month ago after the announcement that it held an exclusive licence to Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned animal.

Dundee-based Shield yesterday played down the importance of the collapse of US trials on AFT, the announcement of which late on Friday prompted a collapse in the share price to 667.5p after having rocketed to a peak of 919p. A spokeswoman for the company described the study of 700 patients in a 10-year-old US government-sponsored programme as "in a sense a bonus study, because the main ones are in the UK".

Yesterday the company was concentrating on the UK tests. Shield said they showed that increased AFT levels in the blood correlated with an increased risk of disease. At the same time, there were over 30 per cent higher levels of AFT in patients with coronary heart disease than healthy people, compared with 7 per cent more cholesterol, an existing test marker.

Separately, PPL announced it had successfully produced a so-called amidated peptide in the milk of genetically modified rabbits. The production of calcitonin, the first time a peptide of this class has been produced, was being claimed as offering the potential for a greater number of pharmaceutical products to be generated from transgenic technology. Calcitonin is used in the treatment of ailments such as brittle bone disease.

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