Bosses at biotech firm Oxford BioMedica have revealed they are in talks with four companies as they look to commercialise their leading drug.

The news came as the company based at the Oxford Science Park started Phase III trials of TroVax which is designed to treat kidney cancer.

A spokesman said: "The company remains committed to securing a major corporate partner for the ongoing development and commercialisation of TroVax.

"The most advanced prospect is a major pharmaceutical company that completed its due diligence on the TroVax programme recently.

"Oxford BioMedica is working with three other global pharmaceutical companies to bring all four companies to the same stage of discussions."

About 700 patients will take part in the trials from 120 centres across the USA, European Union and Eastern Europe.

It is hoped the drug will be available to go on the market by 2009.

Chief executive Prof Alan Kingsman said: "The start of our first Phase III trial is an important milestone for Oxford BioMedica and ensures the TroVax programme is on track for potential product registration in 2009.

"Starting the Phase III trial further emphasises the value of the product to potential partners."