Smaller Companies: Gene genius from Amersham

Scientists across the world are united in a major effort to map out the complete sequence of human genes: the Human Genome Project. The numbers are awesome - 100 million genes, 3 billion pairs of DNA. Completion of this vast task is now expected before the end of the decade with major implications for medical science.

Amersham International, the Tories' first privatisation, has the skills to reap real benefits from the project. The last few years have been a roller coaster ride for group. Spun off originally from the Atomic Energy Authority, it prospered after the 1982 flotation, boosted by its core life sciences division - which supplies radioactive materials for public and private sector laboratories. Later in the decade, however, the boffins lost their way with an expensive effort to develop blood testing kits.

Bill Castell was then drafted in from Wellcome, as group chief executive, to inject some commercial vigour. After disappointing profits growth, the shares have marked time since 1993. The last two sets of half time figures, however, have come in ahead, fuelling renewed hope for the shares.

Amersham's core expertise still revolves around radioactivity. But the star now, which barely existed in the early 1980s, is branded healthcare products. In the latest six months to 30 September, divisional profits grew 139 per cent to pounds 14.1m - half of total operating profits of pounds 28.7m. A com- bination of acquisitions and new licence approvals have made Amersham the world leader in nuclear medicine, with roughly a third of the market.

One of its products, Metastron, is used for the relief of pain caused by secondary bone cancers. But faster growth is being achieved by diagnostic products, in particular Myoview, which enables doctors to monitor heart disease without surgery. In two years Myoview has taken a large chunk of the European and Japanese markets and is showing signs of doing equally well in the $120m a year US market after approval last April.

A notable coup has been a deal with Sumitomo to merge the Japanese giant's nuclear medicine business with Amersham's much smaller operation there. For pounds 106m the group has a 50 per cent stake in Nihon Medi-Physics (NMP), increasing its share of the Japanese nuclear medicine market tenfold to 67 per cent.

Ultimately the hope is that NMP will use Amersham's global network to gain worldwide distribution for its products.

Looking vigorous, too, is life sciences. Amersham has been improving the non-radioactive side of the business, based on luminescent products, and targeting drugs companies rather than public sector bodies.

At the same time it has been increasing its capabilities in genetic studies. This September, Amersham and bigger rivals Roche and Perkins Elmer swept aside complex arguments about patent protection and gave each other free access to all markets with royalties payable when one of the three is selling the other's product. The effect is to quadruple, to $240m, the market which Amersham can address with its new gene-sequencing products.

Last but not least are promising drugs in the pipeline, including agents to diagnose Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and cancer. One analyst is looking for profits to grow from pounds 50.8m to pounds 66.5m this year, followed by pounds 78.5m. With the shares now priced at 1,091p, that would leave the rating in the mid teens. Good value for a company with developments poised to capture the imagination.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Property Underwriter

£70-90,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client a London Market Insurer are seeking a Pro...

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week