Hopkins deal buoys shares

Novel discovery licensed, Guilford hits 52-week high

Biopharmaceuticals

February 17, 2000|By Eileen Ambrose | Eileen Ambrose,SUN STAFF

Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s stock shot up to a 52-week high yesterday after the Baltimore biopharmaceutical company announcing that it has licensed a discovery from the Johns Hopkins University that could be used to develop treatments for degenerative disorders.

The company also reported a fourth-quarter loss of $4.5 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with an $8.63 million loss, or 44 cents per share, posted for the corresponding period the year before.

Revenue in the three months that ended Dec. 31 rose to $8.162 million, up from $3.36 million a year earlier.

Guilford's stock traded at a 52-week high of $35.50 per share, before closing at $32.625, up $2.75.

The company's losses were in line with expectations, said Evan Sturza, of Sturza's Medical Research in New York City. The market reacted favorably to word that all the company's product-development programs were on track as well as the announcement of the licensing agreement with Johns Hopkins, he said.

"It's another promising drug added to the Guilford pipeline," Sturza said.

The Johns Hopkins' discovery involves serine racemase, an enzyme that could provide a new way to block the harmful effects of glutamate over-stimulation, scientists said. The overproduction of glutamate has been linked to a number of neurological degenerative conditions, including stroke, epilepsy, and Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.

Johns Hopkins scientists discovered that the amino acid serine works with glutamate to activate receptors, which in turn can lead to an overproduction of glutamate, the company said. The scientists isolated and cloned the enzyme responsible for these effects.

As part of Guilford's agreement with Johns Hopkins, the company received an exclusive license covering the right to the scientists' discovery and the corresponding intellectual property, the company said.

For the year, Guilford lost $26.9 million, or $1.31 per share, compared with a loss of $29.7 million, or $1.52 per share, in 1998.

Revenue last year rose to $21.6 million from $12.5 million in 1998. Last year's revenue included $9.5 million in payments for achieving development milestones.

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