LONDON - Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc said it exploring a number of alternatives, which may result in the sale or merger of the company.

This follows the resignation of CEO Jurek Sikorski on Oct. 26 and the announcement by the board of a strategic review of Cantab's activities by its financial advisers, Credit Suisse First Boston.

Andy Burrows, vice president of investor and media relations, told BioWorld International he was unable to confirm the number of inquiries or to name any potential suitors. "The fact that we have had several approaches since the announcement is good because it confirms what we believe: There is a lot a value in what Cantab is doing. We have good technology and excellent scientists and we run a very tight ship."

Burrows said the company's bankers are "being very proactive" in following up these approaches. "We also expect to bring more into the frame because we will be approaching other interested parties.

"The overall aim is to be part of something bigger," he said. "To succeed you need a bigger portfolio, so you can take the hits if a compound fails."

Company officials prefer that the company be sold as a whole. "It would be shame if the company is broken up," Burrows said. "We have intellectual property, but more than that we have people who create ideas. Our staff has rare skills and that's where the value lies."

The share price responded well to the news, rising by 62 pence over two days to close at #1.44 on Friday. The stock fell by two-thirds to 76.5 pence on Oct. 18 on news that TA-GW, being developed for the treatment of genital warts by Cantab partner SmithKline Beecham plc, failed in Phase IIa.

Cantab, based in Cambridge, England, has five products in clinical trials. It has about #20 million (US$28.6 million) in cash, sufficient to last 18 months at the current burn rate. It also is due to receive a payment of #5.7 million from Glaxo Wellcome plc when Glaxo's merger with SmithKline Beecham goes through. The payment is compensation for the ending of a partnership for the development of DISC-HSV as a vaccine against genital herpes.

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