LONDON — The share price of Xenova Group plc rose by 27 pence to £1.72 last week when it announced plans to set up a phytochemistry group in collaboration with the government-funded Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER).

The 15-strong group, based in Aberystwyth, Wales, will apply new analytical techniques to search for, and purify, bioactive compounds. IGER has previously identified unknown alkaloids in a wide range of British plants, some of which are closely related to compounds with anti-HIV and anticancer activities.

The alliance will allow Xenova, of Slough, U.K., to extend the chemical diversity of its QTC natural products library, which when complete will be screened against several hundred disease targets by Xenova and its partners Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J., and Zeneca plc, of London.

By combining Xenova's microbial drug discovery techniques with IGER's expertise in phytochemistry, the group aims to reduce the time taken for, and the cost of, natural products drug discovery. IGER's plant breeding experience will help with the rapid establishment of crops for larger-scale extraction, once drug leads have been identified. — Nuala Moran