VESTAR INDEX RISING STAR: SHOOTS 40% ON AMBISOME STUDY, U.S. PATENT NEWS
Vestar's stock (up 1-1/2 to 5-1/4) was among a group of high-flying biotech/R&D stocks with 40%-plus gains in the month of September. Leading the group was Connaught, which topped "F-D-C" Monthly Index gainers (up 49.4% to 32-7/8) on the acquisition duel between Ciba-Geigy/Chiron and Institut Merieux, eventually won by the French firm on Oct. 4. Vestar announced on Sept. 14 that it had received a U.S. patent on shelf-life-extending lyophilization (freeze-drying) of liposomes containing a disaccharide component. The patent covers the range of liposomes used by Vestar to encapsulate therapeutic or diagnostic agents. Also boosting the stock was Vestar's announcement of early clinical study results of its Ambisome lipsomal amphotericin B, which is being studied for the treatment of opportunistic fungal infections in immunodeficient patients. The Lyphomed-Vestar I.V. liposomal formulation of amphotericin B was found to have no significant toxicity in 85 European patients treated for potentially fatal systemic fungal infections at doses three to four times maximum for the conventional form of the drug. Vestar expects to begin European registration of the product and will commence Phase II/III studies overseas "in the near future." News on gram negative sepsis treatments from two biotechs produced differing reactions on the Street. Xoma, which announced positive large-scale study results for its murine monoclonal antibody-based Xomen E-5, dropped 3/4 to 19-1/4. The company filed a PLA in March. Centocor posted a 41.4% jump in stock value (up 7-1/4 to 24-3/4). The company filed a PLA for its human monoclonal product Centoxin on Sept. 20. * Advancing issues outnumbered declines by nearly three-to-two on "F-D-C's" Monthly Index of 58 O-T-C and AMEX stocks: 33 stocks advanced, 21 lost ground, and four finished unchanged. The rally among drug stocks was more pronounced with 24 stocks up for the month -- nine by more than 15% -- and 13 decliners; Molecular Genetics was unchanged at 5-3/4. In addition to Vestar and Connaught, other drug stocks advancing by 15% or more included: Enzon (up 7/8 to 4-3/4), which said it is preparing to file a PLA for PEG-L-asparaginase in acute lymphoblastic leukemia and announced an extension of its "PEGnonlogy" licensing agreement with Research Corp. Technologies: Immunex (up 2-3/8 to 17), which announced a series of product right swaps with Syntex, Behringwerke, and Kodak covering inteleukins; and Repligen (up 1-1/2 to 9-1/2), which benefitted from Merck's decision to pledge an additional $ 1.25 mil. to support the biotech firm's AIDS vaccine work. "F-D-C" Monthly Index outperformed both the Dow (down 1.6%) and the S&P 400 (down 1.2%) in September. The 58 stocks covered by the Index gained 3.8%; the 38 pharmaceutical component stocks jumped 5.8% and the five wholesalers were ahead 2.8%. Chart omitted.
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