LONDON ¿ Shield Diagnostics Group plc, of Dundee, Scotland, completed its merger with Axis Biochemicals ASA, of Oslo, Norway, forming Axis-Shield plc.

The new company has a market capitalization of approximately #165 million (US$264 million), based on the May 26 closing price of Shield shares on the London Stock Exchange of #4.35.

The merged company, which has 200 employees, will concentrate on in vitro diagnostics, with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease prediction. Shield has developed Afecta, a test to measure Activated Factor XII. Conversion of Factor XII to its activated form is the first event in the cascade leading to the formation of blood clots.

Last week, Axis-Shield licensed worldwide marketing rights for Afecta to Bio-Rad Laboratories, of Hercules, Calif., that are exclusive on certain Bio-Rad platforms. The test, which Axis-Shield says is a better predictor of cardiovascular disease risk than tracking cholesterol levels, has FDA approval.

In addition, the company has a complementary test for homocysteine levels, another indicator of cardiovascular disease risk, and tests for a number of autoimmune and infectious diseases. ¿ Nuala Moran