Genox is new tenant at business incubatorGenox Corp. is...

LIFE SCIENCES

March 16, 1993|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Staff Writer

Genox is new tenant at business incubator

Genox Corp. is one of the new technology companies at the South Harbor Business Incubator on Key Highway.

Genox is developing diagnostic tests to measure oxidative stress, which has been correlated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and cataracts. The company believes oxidative stress someday will be measured routinely, like cholesterol, so a person's diet can be adjusted to lower the risk of disease.

The company, founded in 1991 in Minnesota, moved to the incubator recently to be closer to federal regulatory agencies. The company, which has two full-time employees and three consultants, expects to be producing products by the end of the year.

The Greater Baltimore Technology Development Center provides Genox and other companies with counseling advice on business management.

Centocor holds off on adult sepsis study

Pennsylvania-based Centocor Inc. said yesterday that it won't restart the study of its sepsis treatment, Centoxin, on adult patients.

Centocor is redoing a more limited study on patients 18 and younger. While stating that Centoxin is safe, the company said the trial on adults was flawed.

In January, Centocor's stock fell 62 percent after it disclosed a high death rate in some patients participating in the final phase of mandated studies for Centoxin. At the time, the company said it would review the data before deciding whether to continue the study in its quest to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration marketing approval for Centoxin.

The flagship drug is one of several that may eventually treat patients with sepsis, a potentially fatal blood infection.

Gene-altered foods targeted in New York

The backlash against genetically engineered foods continued last week when New York's consumer affairs commissioner proposed a local law to require that retailers separate and identify genetically engineered food.

The issue has heated up because the first genetically engineered food -- Calgene Inc.'s tomato that ripens but doesn't get mushy -- is expected to come on the market this summer.

Federal regulators have concluded that foods such as the tomato do not have to undergo a more rigorous regulatory approval than other food.

Tax exemption for R&D opposed

The Maryland General Assembly is considering several issues important to the biotech industry, including a bill designed to help companies that invest heavily in research and development.

That measure, which would grant tax exemptions for a company's research and development equipment, appears to have some significant opposition.

Baltimore and most counties already have given a similar exemption to businesses, so they don't have to pay personal property tax on manufacturing equipment. But local officials say the broader exemption would be a tax burden.

While officials in each locality would decide whether to grant the exemption, they say such a system would create competition among localities. "It puts the counties in a position where they would bid against each other," said David Bliden, Maryland Association of Counties executive director.

The counties also say they would lose more than the $8 million that the state projects.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, which is pushing the bill, says it is an important economic development tool. Instead of concentrating on lost revenues, says the GBC's Carol Gilliss, localities should consider that the bill would encourage new businesses -- and provide more jobs.

"Every state around us has this exemption," she said.

Another note from Annapolis: The biotech community is watching a $40 million state budget request to renovate a former Hutzler's warehouse in downtown Baltimore for the Medical Biotechnology Center. The center would come under the umbrella of the Maryland Biotechnology Institute, part of the University of Maryland System. It would provide companies with laboratory space and clinical testing to help them develop commercial products.

More mergers expected in biotech industry

How will the recent decline in biotech stock prices affect the industry? Consider last week's announcement that Bio-Technology General Corp. is acquiring Gynex Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a $48 million stock transaction. The companies are developing similar products to treat growth disorders, but neither is profitable. Analysts say more mergers and acquisitions will take place because of the lack of investor interest in stock offerings.

Biomune announces reverse stock split

Here's a biotech company whose stock anyone can afford. Biomune Systems Inc. of Salt Lake City has announced a reverse stock split that gives shareholders one share for every 100 they own. Currently, the stock is worth a bit more than 9 cents a share, so the reverse split makes it worth more than $9 a share. The company made the reverse split to meet the price requirement for Nasdaq listings.

The company, which went public in 1982 for 10 cents a share, specializes in drugs that build the immune system.

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