By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Evotec BioSystems AG, a German firm focused on screening with a number of U.S. collaborators, is taking over UK-based Oxford Asymmetry plc in an all-share deal valued at about $474 million (#316 million).

The merger, expected to be completed by November, calls for the exchange of 0.1287 Evotec shares for each share of Oxford Asymmetry, so that Oxford Asymmetry shareholders will own 31 percent of the new company, and Evotec shareholders will own 69 percent.

Oxford Asymmetry (LSE:OAI) jumped 13 percent Monday following the announcement, but Evotec's shares (Neuer Markt:EVT) slipped 10 percent. The deal comes less than a year after Hamburg, Germany-based Evotec went public.

President of the new company will be Edwin Moses, executive chairman of Oxford Asymmetry, which is headquartered in Abingdon, UK and has offices in the U.S. and Austria. Evotec's Karsten Henco will serve as CEO of the merged firm.

Evotec's one-microliter miniaturized platform is applicable to target identification as well as high-throughput screening, profiling and other functions. The company has collaborations with U.S. companies such as Sugen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., and Trega Biosciences Inc., of San Diego.

Oxford Asymmetry, which is focused on chemical services, has deals with the likes of Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J. (now part of Pfizer Inc.); Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of Madison, N.J.; and Ontogeny Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.

The companies said they hope to pair their capabilities to take advantage of the trend in outsourcing services, and provide a solution to the data bottleneck created by the upswing in genomics during recent years. Evotec had said earlier in July that it was involved in talks that could lead to an offer.

Lehman Bros., of New York, made the offer on behalf of Evotec. Oxford Asymmetry was advised by UBS Warburg, of New York. The board of Oxford Asymmetry said it would unanimously recommend acceptance of the offer. Moses said in a prepared statement that the two firms intend to create a "European powerhouse in drug discovery and development services."

Henco said the merger will make the resulting company "the partner of choice for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide."

A spokesman said the companies were unable to discuss the deal further with U.S.-based reporters.

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