Switzerland’s Serono this morning raised its full-year guidance on the back of double-digit first quarter growth in drug sales.

Net profits for the first three months of the year jumped 76% to almost $172 million as the firm’s leading multiple sclerosis treatment, Rebif (interferon beta-1a), helped show the way, with global sales putting in a 12% rise to $327 million – although this marginally failed to match analysts’ expectations in the USA.

Overall, product sales were boosted 8% to $595 million, contributing a significant proportion to the firm’s $668 million total revenue figure – and perhaps helping to give weight to the biotechnology company’s decision to take down the ‘for sale’ sign it slapped on itself last year, having failed to spark an adequate offer. Serono now plans to change track and looks for acquisitions to bolster its own offering, with more plans expected to be unveiled in a conference call this afternoon.

Also putting in a strong performance was the fertility treatment Gonal-F, which rebounded to score almost $140 million in sales, up from both the previous quarter and the like-period in 2005. And Serono, which has relied heavily on Rebif over the previous years, is hoping that the drug’s leadership position will be augmented with a new formulation, which was filed for approval in the USA and Europe earlier this month. However, it is still likely to face increasing competition, particularly from oral MS therapies – with Biogen Idec and Elan’s Tysabri (natalizumab) expected to make an imminent return to the US market.

Serono has committed to full-year earnings per share of $45, up from its previous forecast of $42 to $43.50.