Actelion shareholders have rejected an attempt by dissident backer Elliott Advisors to oust management at the Swiss biotech.

At an eagerly-anticipated annual general meeting in Basel, which was attended by 486 shareholders, representing 60.4% of the total outstanding shares in the firm, investors voted against Elliott's proposed slate of alternative directors. However, Actelion's candidates, Jean-Paul Garnier, ex-chief executive GlaxoSmithKline, and Robert Bertolini, formerly finance director of Schering-Plough, were voted onto the board and under-fire CEO Jean-Paul Clozel was re-appointed to the board, although some 22 million of the 78 million votes cast recommended his removal.

Elliott issued a statement noted that a significant number of shareholders had "voted for change", adding that "we believe on the back of our campaign and public discussion, Actelion will never be the same, so we are pleased with the debate". However it is clear that investors were not swayed by Elliott's arguments for changing the leadership and exploring a possible sale of the company; the hedge fund, which has a more-than-6% stake in the Allschwil-based group, was also criticised for not presenting a clear alternative strategy.

Dr Clozel was quoted by Dow Jones as saying that "so much energy was spent for this fight, which should have better gone into the development of new drugs". Chairman Robert Cawthorn said that "now, it's back to business," noting that the last few months have been stressful.

Actelion shares fell back as the news from the AGM filtered through as the likelihood of a sale is dwindled.