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OGS Alters Plans to Enter Protein Microarray Market, Shifts Focus to Making Drugs

NEW YORK, March 15 – Oxford Glycosciences of Oxford, UK, has apparently changed its plans for entering the protein microarray market, saying Thursday that their collaboration with Packard Biosciences and Cambridge Antibody Technologies is “just a research project” and that the company has no immediate plans to commercialize the technology. 

Instead, marketing manager Phillipe Cotrel told GenomeWeb that the company’s primary focus would be to develop new drugs such as Vevesca, a small molecule candidate for Gaucher’s disease currently in clinical trials. OGS plans to file a new drug application in the US and a marketing authorization application in the EU for the drug by mid-2001. 

“OGS’ business model is to develop drugs in the future” using the company’s proteomics expertise, said Cotrel. “The technology development part [of the business] is to support our proteomics efforts.”

Last September OGS said it expected that the protein chips would hit the market in 12 - 18 months.

Cotrel did, however, leave open the possibility that OGS would commercialize their protein microarray research sometime in the future.

“We see microarrays as next major advance in proteomics analysis,” said Cotrel. “There is a market for protein microarrays, so it is something we may consider in the future, but right now it is just a pilot project.” 

Currently, OGS earns revenue from proteomics research contracts with big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer. But this revenue hasn’t been enough to make the company profitable, and OGS hopes Vevesca will start pushing the company towards profitability after 2002, OGS executives said in a conference call to investors on Thursday. 

The company’s 2000 earnings, also reported Thursday, show that revenues are only slightly higher than the previous year, but that losses widened to 16.8 million pounds sterling ($24.1 million) -- before a 1.2 million pound tax cut -- from 10.4 million pounds sterling in 1999. Revenues increased by 233,000 pounds to 8.9 million pounds in 2000. 

OGS CEO Michael Kranda attributed the results to increased spending on R&D, as well as timing, since research contracts with GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer were signed late in 2000 and revenue from the contracts wouldn’t show up on balance sheets until 2001. OGS had 203.9 million pounds sterling in cash at the end of 2000. 

To support their proteomics research, OGS is set to receive the first of several next generation MALDI TOF/TOF mass spectrometers from Applied Biosystems at the end of March, with another to arrive before summer, said Cotrel.

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