LONDON (CBS.MW) -- Investors dumped British Biotech PlC shares on Tuesday as the company said trials for its most promising drug marimastat had proved a disappointment.
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British Biotech (BBIOY: news, msgs) -- once the darling of the U.K. industry -- said the combination of marimastat -- the drug it was testing on patients with advanced pancreatic cancer -- had "failed to show a significant improvement in survival" when used with gemcitabine. A spokesman said the drug was in its third trial and still had seven more to go. The company also plans to test the drug on small cell lung cancer.
Shares plunged 3 3/8 or 40.6 percent to 4 15/16. On Monday, the market drove the shares to an intraday high of 8 5/8 on hopes the drug trial would prove a success.
British Biotech has been developing the drug in collaboration with Schering-Plough Corp. (SGP: news, msgs) In a statement, British Biotech said the collaboration is still on track and that Schering-Plough is still backing the program.
Some suggested, though, that it isn't time yet to write off British Biotech. "They [British Biotech] may have been too optimistic and set the hurdle too high, but I wouldn't write marimstat off completely, said Eva Hass, analyst with Greg Middleton in London.
Aside from marimstat, the company is hoping that a new second-generation drug known as bb3644 will be a success. It's being tested for treatment of side-effects such as tendenitis caused by marimstat in early-stage cancer patients. Trial results are due the second half of this year.