LONDON - Louis Nisbet, founder and CEO of Xenova Group plc, has resigned from the company “in order to pursue other business interests.“

He was replaced by David Oxlade, CEO of the subsidiary Xenova Discovery, which was formed in June 1997. Oxlade is a former president of the U.S. medical diagnostic company Syva Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.

In the seven years since the forming of Xenova, Nisbet has led it to listings on Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange, and last month he signed the company's first drug development deal with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, for novel antithrombotics based on plasminogen activator inhibitors. The deal is valued at £21 million excluding royalties.

Commenting on the changeover, Xenova's chairman, John Jackson, said, “David Oxlade's appointment ensures high quality and orderly management succession at Xenova. He brings exactly the right commercial skills and experience of the global healthcare business to Xenova as it focuses increasingly on its drug development activities.“

Xenova specializes in discovery and development of drugs from natural sources, including bacteria, fungi and plants.

Xenova, based in Slough, made the announcement as it released results for the year ended December 1997. These showed losses nearly doubled at £13.4 million, compared with £6.8 million for 1996.

Revenues from collaborations fell to £1.1 million from £1.6 million. R&D expenditures in 1997 were £13 million, up from £8.3 million in 1996. The increase reflected the cost of setting up Xenova's U.S. subsidiary, MetaXen LLC, of Menlo Park, Calif., and development costs for the company's three lead compounds.

Money looks in short supply, with £15.2 million at the year-end compared with £27.8 million a year earlier.

Expenditures currently are £1 million per month, leaving about 12 months funding. However, when it announced the deal with Lilly, Xenova said it would “have a significant positive impact“ on its cash flow in 1998. *