A higher R&D spend has pushed losses up at the UK’s Protherics but the company believes it is money well spent as movement in its pipeline gains momentum.

The company has posted its financials for the first half of the fiscal year ended September which shows that its pretax loss increased 29.8% to £6.1 million. Revenues were up 31% to £14.8 million, led by stronger-than- expected market sales of the rattlesnake antivenom CroFab (crotalidae polyvalent immune fab) and DigiFab (digoxin immune fab), for the treatment of digoxin toxicity and overdose. Also performing well is Voraxaze (carboxypeptidase G2), an adjunctive therapy for patients with impaired kidney function who are experiencing, or are at risk of, toxicity from the chemotherapy methotrexate.

However Protherics was most pleased with the way its pipeline is proceeding, and noted that patient recruitment for the Phase IIb DEEP study of Digibind (digoxin immune fab) in severe pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition of pregnancy, has been completed ahead of schedule. Andrew Heath, the firm’s chief executive, said that “we look forward to seeing the results in the first half of 2008” and if the data are positive, “we will talk to the regulators to determine the next steps in bringing this potential new treatment for severe pre-eclampsia to the market to improve prospects for both mother and baby”.

As for the company’s other lead pipeline product CytoFab (polyclonal ovine anti-TNF antibody fragments) for sepsis, chairman Stuart Wallis said that “the scaled-up manufacturing process has produced a highly potent product, allowing us to defer much of our investment in manufacturing until the start of Phase III with no anticipated impact on product launch”. Partner AstraZeneca is expected to start its CytoFab Phase II programme “imminently”.

Mr Wallis added that “the rest of our development pipeline continues to advance as planned”, with six Phase II programmes expected to be on-going in 2008, saying that “with a diverse and developing portfolio, strong trading and a robust cash position, we are confident in Protherics' prospects”.

Analysts were impressed with Protherics, especially over the pre-eclampsia study as there is nothing on the market for the condition and it could be a $500 million product. Analyst Zhining Xu of Seymour Pierce reiterated his "buy" rating on Protherics and said that all of the company’s projects are progressing “in-line with the plan”.