BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Oxford GlycoSciences plc announced that a heavyweight from big pharma, David Ebsworth, former head of the Pharmaceutical Business Group of Bayer AG, is to be its new CEO. He replaces Michael Kranda, who announced in March that he was leaving for personal reasons after six years in the post.

The challenge facing David Ebsworth at OGS is to inject some substance into the portfolio. The company's proteomics platform has identified 4,000 disease-related proteins, but collaborations aimed at translating those into products are all still in their early stages. Apart from that, OGS has a single product, Vevesca, for the treatment of Gaucher's disease, which is currently under review by the FDA and the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products.

Vevesca is not the fruit of proteomics, but of OGS's earlier incarnation as a glycobiology specialist.

Ebsworth told BioWorld International, "One of the key tasks is to close the gap between Vevesca and the early [preclinical] products. OGS has a reasonable amount of cash on hand and needs partnerships to fill the pipeline. From my current, external perspective that could mean anything from licensing to acquisitions."

OGS had £176 million (US$256.7 million) in cash at the end of 2001.

OGS has collaborations with NeuroGenesis Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., to find small molecules for its protein targets, and with Genmab A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, and BioInvent International of Lund, Sweden, to discover and develop antibodies. "There is a lot moving forward, and three to four compounds should get into Phase I relatively soon," Ebsworth said.

Another task will be to find the right marketing formula for Vevesca.

Ebsworth said he plans to review OGS's proteomics platform. "Proteomics is not commoditized yet, but we have to look at that eventuality. I need to understand what the company is spending money on at the moment, and how much longer [it makes sense] to spend money on proteomics."

OGS's shares closed down 2.5 pence at £3.70 when Ebsworth's appointment was announced Thursday. At the start of the year the shares stood at £6.25.

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