British Biotech plc's stock fell 22 percent, closing Friday at 68.5 pence, after it reported suspending the head of clinical research, Andrew Millar, “pending an inquiry into alleged misconduct.“

The Oxford, U.K., company declined to elaborate while the inquiry is in progress. The dramatic loss of confidence by investors reflects the critical stage of British Biotech's two lead programs, the oral cancer treatment Marimastat, and Zacutex for acute pancreatitis, which are both in Phase III.

Although as head of clinical research, Millar was responsible for these trials, British Biotech said the studies would be unaffected by his suspension.

At its peak in 1996, British Biotech had a market capitalization of more than £2 billion, and was a candidate to join the FTSE index of 100 leading shares.

By last week the company's market capitalization had sunk to £452 million. - Nuala Moran