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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Xenova: Managing Consolidation and Change - A Source of Competitive Advantage for SMEs?

To many external observers, the announcement of the Xenova/Cantab merger in February 2001 came as something of a surprise. Following disappointing trial results with its partnered later stage development product TH-GW, a genital warts vaccine, plus a failed courtship with Peptide Therapeutics (now Acambis plc), Cantab was without a Chief Executive and had indicated it was up for sale. Although the company had a pipeline full of promising and varied early stage biological therapeutics in cancer and vaccines (including ground-breaking anti-addiction vaccines), the negative news flow had impacted the share price, providing something of a bargain to potential acquirers. There was not only a good deal of genuine interest in Cantab from a number of companies, but a good deal of speculation too. Xenova, it seems, was not on many people's radar at the time and initially was not particularly well-received by the financial community as the ultimate acquirer.


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By Dr Helen Abbott, Editor of EBR

David Oxlade originally joined Xenova as Chief Executive of Xenova Discovery Limited in June 1997, becoming Group Chief Executive of Xenova Group plc in March 1998. Originally trained as a Biochemist, David spent seven years working for Boehringer Mannheim in the UK before moving into a general management role which included developing commercial operations internationally, specifically in Asia.
He moved to ICI, now AstraZeneca, in 1985 with a specific remit to develop health care business beyond ethical pharmaceuticals, and successfully co-founded the DNA-fingerprinting diagnostic business Cellmark Diagnostics. Prior to joining Xenova, David was President of the US-based Syva Division of Behring Diagnostics Inc (part of Hoeschst AG), formerly part of Syntex.
Dr John St Clair Roberts, Medical Director and an Executive Director of the Xenova Group, became part of the organisation as a result of the merger of Xenova with Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc, where he held similar responsibilities. John originally joined Cantab in 1994 with responsibility for worldwide clinical development, becoming a member of its Executive Board in July 1999.
Prior to Cantab, he had been Medical Director of Pasteur Merieux (UK) where he was responsible for the development of several prophylactic vaccines including a combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and a Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine. John practiced hospital-based medicine prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry in 1986 and is a Fellow of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians, the Medical Society of London and the Royal Society of Medicine.

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Dr John St Clair Roberts
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David Oxlade
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Dr Helen Abbott
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