3 Md. firms on 'Biotech 50' list Prestige: Human Genome Sciences, Life Technologies and MedImmune are placed among the top 50 U.S. biotechnology companies.

June 12, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

In an article appearing in the June 12 Business section about Maryland companies named to the "Biotech 50" list, the 1995 net sales figure for Life Technologies of Rockville was incorrectly reported. The company posted $272.3 million in net sales.

The Sun regrets the error.

Three Maryland-based biotechnology companies, Human Genome Sciences, Life Technologies and MedImmune, have been named to a prestigious list of the top biotechnology companies in the country.

The so-called "Biotech 50" list is compiled annually by Coopers & Lybrand LLP, the national business consulting firm, and is based on market capitalization rather than profitability. That's because only a handful of biotech companies have yet crossed into the black.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Coopers & Lybrand evaluated the performance of all 246 publicly held U.S. biotechnology companies in 1995 to draw up its 1996 Biotech 50 list.

While being named (or dropped) from the list isn't significant enough to shake up a stock price, it is considered an honor that can help build investor confidence and boost morale internally, say company executives.

Being named to the list is also considered prestigious inside the industry because it is used to compile what's known as the Coopers & Lybrand Biotech Index, a barometer of biotechnology stocks.

Published monthly, the index is widely used by industry analysts and companies for proxy materials, notes Robert D. Greenbaum, director of Coopers & Lybrand's Boston-based National High Tech Group, which compiles the list as part of an annual report on the industry. The index, he said, also is used as a comparative against the S&P 500 to gauge the performance of the biotechnology industry against the stock market as a whole. (The report showed that in the last year the Biotech 50 outperformed the S&P 500, growing 79 percent compared to 32 percent.)

Of the Maryland companies named to the list, Life Technolo-gies, a Gaithersburg-based company that makes and supplies biotechnology products for university and company-based researchers, is among the "elite" of the Biotech 50, notes Coopers & Lybrand.

The reason: it's one of just a dozen that have been named to the list every year since it was first launched in 1991.

Others among the elite include industry powerhouses Amgen, Biogen and Chiron.

J. Stark Thompson, Life Technologies' chief executive officer, said being consistently named to the Biotech 50 is a big morale booster for his company.

"We take great pride in being on the list. It's recognition that we are a very significant part of the industry," said Thompson.

"One of the great frustrations for our company is that, being on the supplier side of the industry, we don't get the big play from the analysts and the press even though we are very profitable. So it's nice to be noticed."

In terms of market capitalization, Life Technologies falls in the middle of the Biotech 50 pack; its market value of $453 million is a sight smaller than one of the grand-daddies of the industry, California-based Amgen, whose market capitalization increased almost $8 billion in 1995 to $15 billion.

But, like Amgen, Life Technologies has a distinction that very few on the top 50 list can attest to: Profitability.

The Rockville company posted a net profit of $22.3 million on sales of $223.3 million in 1995.

This is the first year that the "Biotech 50" honor has been bestowed on Rockville-based Human Genome and Gaithersburg-based MedImmune.

Human Genome, which has a market capitalization of $791.5 million, is attempting to map the entire human gene system and to use the information to develop new medical therapies through several key alliances with pharmaceutical houses, including SmithKline Beecham. Those alliances, and several gene discoveries, have attracted keen investor interest in the company and driven up its market value.

MedImmune, which has a market value of $416 million and is developing new vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases and transplantation medicine, has seen its market value climb as it garnered approvals for several products and broadened its pipeline of drugs in development.

Neither MedImmune nor Human Genome has turned a profit yet. However, MedImmune, which lost more than $22 million in 1995, could potentially move into the black in 1997 or 1998 as revenues of its infant pneumonia drug, RespiGam, are expected to improve the bottom line, analysts say.

In trading yesterday, Life Technologies lost 62.5 cents to close at $29.75; Human Genome gained $1.25 to close at $42.25; and MedImune slipped 25 cents to $18.75. All trade on the Nasdaq.

Greenbaum, the director of the National High-Tech Group at Coopers & Lybrand, said clinical successes in the past year at several biotechnology companies have restored investor faith in the industry, even in companies that have yet to turn a profit.

The Coopers & Lybrand report also notes that, even more importantly for the industry, there is a growing list (150 at last count) of products in the late stages of development or awaiting FDA review that have the potential of generating revenues and positive earnings reports soon.

The report also cites a more favorable atmosphere at the FDA toward biotech products and congressional clamor for speedier review of the biotech industries products as trends favoring the industry in the year ahead.

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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