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Oxford Nutrascience shares spike as investor appetite for chewy drugs grows

Shares in Oxford Nutrascience (LON:ONG) have spiked 150 percent in the past two days as the market belatedly digested the potential of a breakthrough tie-up announced last week.

ON and Isis Innovations – the commercialisation arm of Oxford University – have come together to create a new chewable way to deliver ibuprofen, which gets past the painkiller’s bitter aftertaste

The catalyst for the move it seems is a particularly positive write-up in the local press, which it appears have piqued the interest of the City

At 12:00 the micro-cap drug stock was up 1.25 pence on the day, a 44 percent rise, and was changing hands at 4.13 pence. However earlier this morning the stock had been stronger, reaching a new higher at 5.13 pence.

This marks a staggering 150 percent increase from just 2 pence a share at the close of trading back on Wednesday.

It seems investors have a renewed appetite for small and novel biotech firms at the moment. Most notable of these is Sareum (LON:SAR). The company popped up out of relative obscurity and become one of London’s most talked about companies this week after it released positive pre-clinical data from a leukaemia drug compound.

Unlike Sareum, Oxford Nutrascience is not a drug developer with a high risk, long lead, development pipeline.

Instead the company develops new and novel way to deliver existing over the counter drugs and nutritional supplements. As such it can deploy its technology in new marketable applications much quicker.

The drug delivery technology was developed by Professor Dermot O’Hare and a group of researchers at the University of Oxford’s chemistry department. The breakthrough delivery technology masks the drugs unpleasant taste and it can also enhance drug stability. It may also allow for ‘tuneable drug release’.

Significantly, the technology is applicable to a broad range of pharmaceuticals including major drug categories such as Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and statins.

Recently Oxford Nutrascience has been developing taste masking for over-the-counter pain relief drug ibuprofen, using ISIS Innovation’s drug delivery technology.

The company has recently established proof of concept for the taste masking of ibuprofen, which has removed the typical burning sensation on the throat. Oxford Nutrascience is now proceeding to develop chewable and liquid ibuprofen products which it intends to commercialise via the OTC and prescription markets.

ISIS Innovation’s drug delivery technology is currently protected by a patent granted in the UK, Germany and France and an application has been made for the US. It is sponsoring research at The University of Oxford and is looking to file further patent applications during 2011.

Last week Oxford Nutrascience chairman Marcelo Bravo said:
“Licensing this technology from a strong academic partner such as the University of Oxford gives Oxford Nutrascience significant firepower to innovate and extend the lifecycle of existing branded generic medicines and soon to be off-patent API’s.”

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Ben Roeves