Newswatch: Drugs firm set to float.

Former PricewaterhouseCoopers corporate finance expert Dr Neil Johnston has had to hit the ground running in his first two months as group financial officer at Pharmagene, the biotechnology group which tests drugs on human tissues, writes Jerry Frank.

Dr Johnston has brought his experience at PwC in private placements and public listings to bear as Pharmagene prepared for a London Stock Exchange listing due this Monday.

An associate member of the Society of Actuaries with a PhD in molecular biology, 33-year-old Johnston can stand his own scientifically and financially in a highly-qualified boardroom.

Pharmagene now has one of the world’s most extensive collections of human tissue for the pharmaceutical industry to carry out pre-clinical testing on drugs during development, which reduces the risk of subsequent failure in the clinic.

Doctors Gordon Baxter and Robert Coleman founded the company in 1996 with equity funding worth #1.4m, with a further #5m raised the following year.

The Hertfordshire-based company has been valued at #140m with share prices between 240p and 320p, and is due to raise #40m to fund sales and marketing restructuring, and open a United States office.

Former GP and chief executive Dr Alastair Riddell said: ‘The recent sequencing of the human genome provides a significant opportunity for Pharmagene, in that we can help take this sequence information to the next level – that is gene function.’

Johnston replaced William Buckie as FD, a Cambridge biochemistry PhD and Coopers & Lybrand trained accountant, who has taken over as company secretary.

Related reading