BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON Vernalis Group plc said it finished the preparations for a secondary listing on Nasdaq and due to FDA approval for frovatriptan announced interim profits of £1.1 million for the six months ended December 2001.

Robert Mansfield, CEO, told BioWorld International: “We have completed all the work to file. Theoretically, we could be on Nasdaq next week, but the markets are not good at the moment, and we are expecting a very good news flow in the next three to four months.”

It is undecided if the company, a specialist in central nervous system diseases, obesity and diabetes, will use the listing occasion to raise money.

“We had £18 million at the end of [December 2001], frovatriptan is about to be launched and we have just done two big deals, so we are not in the position of needing to raise cash,” Mansfield said. “But [our feeling] is that every biotech should do so if it has the opportunity.”

The move into interim profits came as the FDA’s approval of frovatriptan, a migraine treatment, triggered $15 million (£10.5 million) in milestone payments from Vernalis’ partner, Elan Corp. plc, of Dublin, Ireland. Losses for the full year were down more than 53 percent on the previous year at £9.9 million. At the beginning of 2002, frovatriptan was granted approval in the 15 European Union countries.

Vernalis, based in Berkshire, said it expects to start two new trials in the second quarter of 2002 a Phase II study of VML 670 for the treatment of sexual dysfunction, and a Phase I trial of the anti-obesity drug VR 1065.

The Phase II VML 670 trial will involve 240 patients with sexual dysfunction as a side effect of receiving selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the treatment of depression. Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, has an option to buy into VML 670 at the end of the Phase II work, in which case it would reimburse Vernalis for development costs.

The results of the Phase I study of VR 1065, to be conducted by Vernalis’ partner F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, are expected in nine to 12 months. The companies agreed to a second collaboration in diabetes in February 2002, based on new modes of action, and Mansfield expects clinical candidates to emerge from this collaboration in the second half of 2003.

Mansfield said there are other deals on the table that he is confident of closing. In particular, he said he is talking to three potential partners for VER 11135, an A2A receptor antagonist for treating Parkinson’s disease. The compound is expected to reach the clinic in the first half of 2003.

Although it had £18 million in cash at the start of the year, Vernalis employs more than 100 researchers and spent £20.4 million on research and development in 2001.