COR AT HEART OF BIOTECH RALLY; AMONG ELITE GROUP OF STOCKS AHEAD FOR YEAR
Cor Therapeutics' 32.7% price surge in November puts the stock in an elite group of "O-T-C" drug issues trading above their 1991 closing price. That is a distinction shared by only seven other firms that make up the 63 stocks tracked in the pharmaceutical component of the "F-D-C" Index of NASDAQ stocks. While Cor failed to escape the biotech bloodletting by investors last April, the stock inched ahead or held steady during the subsequent six months. Cor's 3-7/8 point gain in November to 16-1/8 lifted it ahead of last year's closing price of 15. Other members of the elite group of eight that are on the plus-side for 1992 include bellwether companies Amgen (up 10 to 76-3/4) and Biogen (up 4-3/4 to 42-3/4); also ahead through 11 months are Cytogen, The Liposome Company, Gilead, Anergen and Teva. Bargain-hungry investors sorting through the remains of the battered biotech start-ups may have been heartened by Cor's announcement in late October that it had initiated a Phase II trial for a second indication for its lead product candidate, Integrelin, a platelet aggregation inhibitor. The new trial will evaluate the compound for prevention of abrupt closure after coronary angioplasty; in addition, ongoing Phase II trials for treatment of unstable angina have expanded to more than 10 clinical sites. Although Cor has a partnership with Lilly, it so far has retained rights to Integrelin. Phase III Integrelin trials should be under way by the second or third quarter of next year, Cor told investors Dec. 1 at the Robertson, Stephens 1992 Medical Conference. Cor also announced a three-year agreement with Kyowa Hakko Kogyo of Tokyo to develop small-molecule drugs for the treatment of restenosis that occurs after 30%-40% of angioplasty procedures. The South San Francisco, Calif.-based firm has $52 mil. in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and has spent $21 mil. since its start-up in 1988. Cor was one of 61 pharmaceutical stocks on the "F-D-C" Index to post gains in November, when the group as a whole had its best performance of the year, up 17.9%. Although nearly half the stocks were ahead by 20% or more in November, the upward swing for many of the small companies simply means that instead of looking at year-to-date declines of 50% and up, they have cut their losses to between 30% and 40%. The Liposome Company was an exception as it nearly doubled its value in November, shooting up 6-3/4 to 14-5/8, half a point above its 1991 closing price. TLC announced Nov. 20 that it had reacquired worldwide marketing rights from Bristol-Myers Squibb for TLC ABLC, a liposomal formulation of the antifungal amphotericin B, currently in Phase III clinicals. In addition, Hambrecht & Quist analyst Larry Smith gave the company a boost with a Nov. 17 report summarizing preliminary Phase II results on TLC's liposomal formulation of doxorubicin; 28 patients with metastatic breast cancer had a response rate of 54% without any major cardiotoxicities, Smith said, adding that the results "match or exceed our most optimistic hopes."
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