OXFORD - A number of prominent European biotech companies are about to get bigger by merging with each other. Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc and Peptide Therapeutics plc last week confirmed that they are in merger talks in the U.K., while Germany's Evotec Biosystems AG is expected to announce this week a merger deal with Oxford Asymmetry International plc in Britain.

Both events could be the trigger to push other players together as investors demand more robust companies. But consolidation among European biotech companies has been beset by a number of false dawns. No merger stampede emerged in the wake of last year's mergers of Celltech with first Chiroscience and then Medeva to form Celltech Group plc (LSE:CCH; CLL, Slough, U.K.), or by the acquisition of Roberts Pharmaceutical Corp. in the U.S. by Shire Pharmaceutical Group (LSE:SHP; SHPGY, Andover, U.K.).