Oxford BioMedica has turned down takeover bids by the USA’s GeneThera, a move which has sent its shares soaring and highlights the increased interest of late in biotechnology firms, especially British ones.

The Oxford-headquartered firm revealed that GeneThera, which has a market capitalisation of just $230,000, had offered to pay £0.35 per share to buy the firm, more than four times its closing price on Thursday, when its value stood at £46.5 million. The news of the bid forced Oxford BioMedica’s shares up 18.5% to 10.25 pence as the markets closed on Friday night.

GeneThera’s chairman Tony Milici noted that his firm had made an evaluation of Oxford BioMedica's “present situation from a management, scientific and equity prospective” and upped a previous rejected offer. He noted that the UK firm’s renal cancer study of the TroVax vaccine was recently halted because of its failure to improve survival rate and claimed that GeneThera’s DNA vaccine technology, Purivax, “would be a critical factor in getting the TroVax clinical trial restarted and possibly successfully completed”.

He went on to state that a link-up “would create a major player in the field of DNA cancer vaccines” and the new company will also be in the position to meet the requirements for a listing on the Amex or Nasdaq markets, giving shareholders of both firms “a greater advantage when compared to the present situation”.

However Oxford BioMedica is non-plussed by the second bid. The latter’s board has consulted with its advisors, JP Morgan Cazenove and Rothschild, and says “it remains of the view that this unsolicited approach is not credible and is not in the interests of its shareholders".

The bid came just after another UK firm, Protherics, had seen its stock soar over 40% after it revealed that the company has “received approaches from a number of parties”. And only last month, Sanofi-Aventis, incidentally Oxford BioMedica’s partner for TroVax, agreed to pay around £276 million in cash for the UK’s Acambis, or £1.90 per share, a premium of 65.2%.