BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - ML Laboratories plc plans to divest its DNA manufacturing unit, Cobra Bio-Manufacturing plc, through a flotation on the Alternative Investment Market in London, in a move expected to raise £7 million (US$10.3 million).

The shares are priced at £1 each, giving Cobra, based in Keele, UK, a market capitalization of £13 million. About £3 million of the money will be used to repay a bank loan and the rest to fund further development of the company.

ML Labs, of Warrington, UK, acquired the manufacturing unit in March 2000, when it took over the gene therapy company Cobra Therapeutics Ltd. in an all-share deal valued at £10.36 million. The R&D arm of the business will remain part of ML Labs.

The manufacturing facility was set up when the company was established in 1992 to service in-house R&D. Since 1998 it has offered its services externally, and had revenues of £1.1 million in 2001. It has a lead position in the manufacture of DNA vaccines.

CEO David Thatcher said the marketplace for gene therapy products is growing at 30 percent per annum, and there is an increasing trend to outsource. "This flotation establishes Cobra as a fully independent custom manufacturer."

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