02 December 1996 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Chiroscience, the UK-based biotechnology company, is to expand its drug development programme by purchasing the Seattle-based Darwin Molecular biotech firm for $120m.
Chiroscience uses chiral drug purification techniques as a cash earner but the Darwin purchase will see the company move away from this speciality and towards the development of new biotechnology drugs.
The deal represents the first major acquisition by a UK biotech company in the US, although a number of smaller deals have been completed in the past.
It also means that Bill Gates, the Microsoft multi-billionaire, will acquire a 3.4% stake in Chiroscience as he backed the launch of Darwin in 1994.
While in one sense the deal is a merger - some Darwin board members will join Chiroscience - the monetary terms of the deal mean it is essentially a takeover by Chiroscience. John Padfield, ceo of Chiroscience, and Ronald Cape, chairman of Darwin, agreed that the two companies would open doors to new partnerships and collaborations, as well as providing for development synergies.
Industry analysts were equally pleased with the venture, saying that the joining of the two small development companies would make it hard for any of the major pharma players to launch a takeover bid. It has been speculated that Glaxo Wellcome was looking at acquiring Chiroscience.
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