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BTG ORD 10P : News

07 avr. 200922:39

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Pharmaceuticals company BTG PLC (BGC.LN) Thursday said it has hired three senior executives to establish bigger commercial operations in the U.S., as it gears up to start selling its own medicines there from 2010.
The move is the first part of BTG's bid to transform itself from a life sciences business that licenses its drugs to another firm to sell into a specialty pharmaceutical company selling critical care medicines directly to U.S. hospitals. That's a crucial move for small drug companies that want to get bigger, said Paul Cuddon, an analyst at KBC Peel Hunt.
BTG said it hired former senior executives from Merck & Co. (MRK), Cambridge Antibody Technology Group, now part of AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN), and Chiron, a unit of Novartis AG (NOVN.VX), to head up its U.S. operations, which will initially be focused around two emergency medicines BTG gained when it acquired U.K. biotech Protherics for GBP218 million last year. The drugs are sold by Nycomed SCA, but the rights revert to BTG in October 2010.
The new team will establish a sales force, probably of around 15 people, to sell snake venom antidote CroFab and a drug for treating digoxin overdose called DigiFab. Louise Makin, chief executive officer of London-based BTG, told Dow Jones Newswires sales of the two drugs are expected to be between $80 million and $100 million by 2011.
KBC's Cuddon said BTG should try to get the rights back sooner, and Makin said that's a possibility, provided it can get a good deal.
BTG said Thursday it intends to acquire late-stage experimental drugs that it can add to its sales reps portfolios.
Makin said it is a good time to be buying new medicines because many biotechnology companies are struggling for funds. Big pharmaceuticals' renewed interest in "mega-mergers", like Pfizer Inc.'s (PFE) $68 billion takeover of Wyeth (WYE), also throws up opportunities, because the merged company will often shed programs in its pipeline, she said.
Also Thursday, BTG said it is on track to make savings of GBP10 million a year from the combined BTG-Protherics group by early 2011. It has moved to new London offices and cut staff by 20%, it said.
The drug maker didn't make any major changes to its portfolio of experimental drugs following the merger. BTG said Thursday development of key drugs such as BTG's varicose vein treatment Varisolve and Protherics' Voraxaze, for treating chemotherapy toxicity, is ongoing.

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