LONDON - Some UK biotechnology companies are struggling but Oxford Asymmetry International plc, which provides chemical services to many of them, reported increased sales of 58 percent, to #9.6 million, for the six months that ended June 30.

Profits were up 16 percent, to #1.7 million (US$2.75 million), and the order book is worth #19.3 million.

Ed Moses, Oxford Asymmetry's CEO, told BioWorld International the company is not immune to the ups and downs of the sector but, "While the major pharmaceuticals may be distracted by mergers and acquisitions and the biotechs may have financing problems, they all depend on chemical services in the discovery and development of new products."

Moses said Oxford Asymmetry, of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, is not a barometer of the industry. But its success at what is generally a difficult time is an indicator of two particular trends, he said. The first is the increasing use of outsourced services. "Most small companies do not have the resources in house and are in any case set up on an outsourced business model," he said.

The growth of the industry is presenting opportunities, particularly in Germany, where there is currently a high rate of start-ups. The second trend is the move into small molecules by the biotech sector, which makes it increasingly dependent on outsourced chemical services.

To meet increased demand Oxford Asymmetry is investing #12 million in a new pilot plant. Due to come on line in 2001, it will triple the current capacity.