Growing rumours that French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis has its eyes on UK group Oxford Biomedica sent the latter group’s investors into a frenzy yesterday, pushing up its share price by nearly 30%.

The surge was sparked by a report in the Mail on Sunday, which claimed a merger between the two companies was “imminent”, but both companies have so far declined to comment on the speculation.

Sanofi, which is keen to strengthen its foothold in the biotechnology sector, already has a working relationship with Oxford Biomedica after signing a development and commercialisation deal for the UK group’s cancer vaccine TroVax in March last year.

The deal could see Sanofi paying out up to 518 million euros (£385 million) if TroVax meets all development and registration targets for certain defined indications, and additional payments will be made if regulatory milestones are achieved in other cancer types.

Company cheaper than TroVax?
But analysts believe that a current offer for Oxford Biomedica would value the group at around £280 million, according to the Financial Times, which is much less than Sanofi would have to pay if TroVax proves to be a success.

Furthermore, if is goes ahead with the rumoured deal, the French drugmaker would gain access to other promising candidates the UK firm’s pipeline, such as the gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease ProSavin, which is currently being tested in Phase I/II clinical trials, thereby revitalising its own portfolio of candidates.