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OGS, Still Choosing the Right Partner, Furthers Collaboration, Drug Application

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Oxford GlycoSciences said last week that it has started talks with three further potential buyers: an international pharmaceutical company, a US-based biotechnology company, and a European private equity house. In the past, Medarex of Princeton, NJ; Xenova, of Slough, UK; and Actelion of Allschwil, Switzerland have said to be interested in the company.

New offers would add to two existing bids, from Cambridge Antibody Technology and Celltech. “We have previously promised our shareholders that we will seek the best value that we can for them and in doing so are seeking to have discussions with all interested parties,” said David Ebsworth, CEO of OGS, in a statement.

The company’s board advised against the Celltech offer again last week, after withdrawing its previous recommendation of a merger with CAT the previous week.

Earlier this month, Celltech made an offer to acquire OGS for $158 million in cash, topping an earlier offer from CAT to acquire OGS in exchange for stock worth about $174 million at the time. That offer has since declined in value.

Celltech also acquired 10.5 percent of OGS’ shares this month, which is insufficient to block approval for a rival bid, which requires a 75-percent majority. A shareholder meeting, originally set for March 11, has not been rescheduled, according to an OGS spokeswoman.

Despite the uncertainties of a looming acquisition, OGS has been forging ahead with its research. Last week, it said it received three milestones in its three-year collaboration with Medarex to develop therapeutic human antibodies. In addition to OGS providing another protein target and manufacturing four others for immunizations, a therapeutic antibody resulting from the collaboration that targets heparanase 1 has now reached the stage of preclinical safety assessment and is being produced for a phase I study.

OGS also announced last week that it has submitted an amendment to its FDA application for its Gaucher disease drug Zavesca. Last June, the FDA rejected the application, saying that OGS had not provided sufficient data proving the safety and efficacy of the drug.

Zavesca was approved for marketing in the European Union last November. Earlier this month, Actelion launched the drug in the UK and expects to make it available throughout the EU shortly.

— JK