New trial for CytoFab as investors urge action

AstraZeneca is planning a new mid-stage trial of CytoFab for severe sepsis which will take 21 months to complete. The prospect of a delay for CytoFab hammered the share price of the UK's Protherics, which licensed the drug to AstraZeneca 11 months ago in a deal valued at up to $372 million. The move could delay AstraZeneca's plans to launch a Phase III trial in 2007, which would delay a potential market launch. But company officials cautioned that a successful new mid-stage trial could significantly reduce the amount of time it would take to complete final testing. Analysts were cautious about this latest news from AstraZeneca, which has had a string of disappointing trials and faces a difficult task in proving the effectiveness of a new therapy for severe sepsis.

- here's the AFX report on AstraZeneca

ALSO: Big shareholders in AstraZeneca say that its recent clinical trial failures will require the UK-based developer to start investing its $4 billion in cash reserves in new acquisitions to rebuild a severely depleted pipeline. CEO David Brennan is reportedly set to meet with stockholders to review the company's plans and get their advice, according to The Times of London. If they do decide to go on the acquisition trail, they'll likely run into some heavyweight competition. Merck's $1.1 billion Sirna buyout--which includes a hefty premium for shareholders--has spurred talk that valuations in biotechnology have soared. That will leave AstraZeneca in a bidding war with other drug developers equally determined to gain control of promising new therapeutics. Article