Genes lift Nycomed.

Mapping the human genome may now offer the human race a new future, but in the present, the breakthrough has lifted the share price of Nycomed Amersham, the Anglo-Norwegian healthcare group. Nycomed, which emerged from the privatisation of the former Atomic Authority’s radiation division, provided many of the high-throughput DNA sequencers needed to unravel the human genetic code. Accountant duo chief executive Sir Bill Castell and FD Giles Kerr will this Monday release interim results that will reflect the company’s place bang in the centre of one of the epoch-making scientific breakthrough. Nycomed, which also has an imaging division specialising in X-rays, ultrasound and radiotherapy, made #233.8m on #1.27bn sales up to the end of December 1999 and has grown by almost 80% this year, with shares reaching a high of 750p. In June, 53-year-old ACA Castell celebrated being honoured with a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours for his service to the life science industry – after more than a decade with the group. FD Kerr, 41, has been a senior executive with the company since 1991. The company’s share price also rose at the end of May after the healthcare company won a victory to defend its gene sequencing patents against the US biotech company PE Biosystems – its only other competitor in the emerging #270m market. The company owns 55% of Amersham Pharmacia Biotech (APB), which manufactures the genome sequencing machines, and industry experts believe Castell and the board are also due this Monday to announce plans to float its life science division on Nasdaq. The group has faced problems valuing its stake in APB, with an initial tag of up to #1.9bn believed by analysts to be more like #1.3bn when compared with PE Biosystem offspring Celera valued at #3.6bn, which has already commercialised the information database from the sequencers. Sir Castell is set to chair the life science offshoot, while retaining his current role, if the demerger goes ahead.

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