Biotech stock surge may be short-livedIs the recent...

LIFE SCIENCES

November 24, 1992|By Liz Bowie

Biotech stock surge may be short-lived

Is the recent rebound in biotechnology stocks for real? Some stock analysts say the upsurge that began in the middle of October and continued with a leap in early November could collapse soon.

"This might be a very temporary phenomena," said Reijer Lenstra, an analyst with Montgomery Securities in San Francisco.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange biotech index went from 138 to 160 in early November. But one reason the trend may not hold, analysts say, is that the market was not reacting to a major advancement in the field.

"There is still a tremendous level of reservation about this group and there has been no catalytic event to convince the naysayers," said David Webber, an analyst with the New York office of Alex. Brown and Sons.

"In the past, biotechnology stocks have overreacted at both good and bad news," added Richard Barbarita, corporate vice ** president and local branch manager for PaineWebber Inc.

Late last week, for instance, Molecular Biosystems Inc.'s stock lost more than 20 percent of its value after the Food and Drug Administration asked for more data on its first drug -- a move that could delay the product getting to market.

"I don't know whether this is the real recovery or some early premonition of it," said Mr. Webber, who said the market may be anticipating a string of successes as companies get closer to bringing products to market.

Getting rid of low-level radioactive waste -- the type commonly found at biotech companies, research laboratories and hospitals -- will become a lot more difficult in the state in January.

As other states close their landfills to out-of-state radioactive waste, Maryland institutions will be forced to hold their waste for up to five years -- when Pennsylvania opens a regional landfill -- or to find companies willing to store and treat it.

What's more, proposed regulations say that anyone who gener- ates, stores or treats low-level radioactive waste will have to apply for a permit -- at a cost of at least $40,000, said Leland R. Cooley, director of radiation safety and waste management at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Mr. Cooley criticized the regulations. "Don't go punishing unnecessarily every industry, hospital and health care institution just because it makes you feel better," he said.

State Department of the Environment officials say they may have made a mistake in the first draft of the regulations. They don't want the rules to be onerous to biotech companies or the state's major research hospitals, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.

But the department also wants to ensure that companies in the business of collecting the waste from lots of different sources must apply for permits.

"We wanted to make it easy and make it protective," said Mr. Alvin L. Bowles of the department's Waste Management Administration. "Some of the wording didn't come out the way we thought it would."

He said the regulations are likely to be amended. "We are aware there is nowhere these people can go with this waste."

For decades the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has required institutions and companies that use low-level radioactive waste to have a permit.

The industry sees the state's proposed regulations as an unnecessary second level of rules.

Scios Nova finds FDA panel all wet

There was water, water everywhere and not a meeting room in sight.

When Scios Nova Inc. went to the Food and Drug Administration last week for a hearing before an advisory review panel for its drug, Pergamid, it found the building shut down because of a water main break. The review is expected to be delayed about a month, but that's not a major setback in getting the drug to market, the company says.

Pergamid is intended for use in bone marrow transplants for cancer patients.

NASA offers peek at new inventions

Hundreds of new, sometimes wacky inventions will be displayed in Baltimore next week at Technology 2002, a conference sponsored by NASA. About 5,000 inventors and researchers from federally funded laboratories and universities will show off their wares to companies and venture capitalists who might want to license the technologies.

So if you're looking for a robot that can tackle tasks too dangerous for humans, an artificial intelligence system that checks aging airplanes or a method of detecting epileptic seizures, stop by the Baltimore Convention Center. The conference will be held from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3.

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