In the Region Malaria vaccine effort joins with Oxford...

BUSINESS DIGEST

October 23, 2001

In the Region

Malaria vaccine effort joins with Oxford U., Oxxon Pharmaccines

The Rockville-based Malaria Vaccine Initiative announced yesterday a two-year, $1.5 million partnership with the University of Oxford and the biotechnology company Oxxon Pharmaccines for research and testing of a malaria vaccine.

The alliance of the three entities will allow the development and testing in human volunteers of a vaccine based on Oxxon's "prime-boost" technology, said Dr. Regina Rabinovich, the initiative's director. She spoke at the American Public Health Association meeting in Atlanta. The prime-boost plan increases the body's natural resistance to malaria through a two-stage regimen that primes the immune system with one vaccine, then boosts the immune response with another.

Between 300 million and 500 million malaria infections occur each year, Rabinovich said. About 90 percent of the world's malaria cases occur in Africa. The Malaria Vaccine Initiative was created in 1999 through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Fila extends contract with tennis star Capriati

Fila Holding SpA extended a multimillion-dollar endorsement agreement yesterday with tennis star Jennifer Capriati for another three years.

Capriati, who won two Grand Slam tournaments this year and is ranked No. 1 by the WTA, will earn as much as $10 million for wearing Fila apparel and footwear on and off the court and promoting the Italian designer through 2004. Capriati had been under contract since 1999 with Fila, which has been struggling to recover from a steep slide in U.S. sales in 1998 and 1999.

"She gives the brand huge global visibility," said Howe Burch, senior vice president of marketing for Fila USA, Fila's Sparks-based U.S. division. "She gives us credibility in a category where we have a long and storied history."

Santoni's Super Market offers online shopping

Santoni's Super Market, a 71-year-old grocery on East Lombard Street in Highlandtown, said yesterday that it is offering online shopping, with delivery to selected neighborhoods in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Santoni's, which already takes orders by phone and delivers in Highlandtown and Dundalk, has contracted with Mywebgrocer.com to run its Web site, www.santonismarket.com. Santoni's will charge $4.95 for curbside pickup or $8.95 for delivery in Highlandtown, Canton, Fells Point, Dundalk, Federal Hill, Rosedale, Perry Hall and Parkville.

Robert Santoni Jr., the store's controller, said, "We don't need this to survive. It's an extra service." Santoni said he expects to get between 30 and 50 orders a week after six months.

Most consumers satisfied with insurance appeals

Seventy-nine percent of consumers who appealed health insurance disputes to the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the process - although only 66 percent said the MIA had found in their favor - according to a survey conducted for the agency.

When insurers and consumers disagree over whether care is medically necessary, consumers must appeal first through the insurer's internal review process. Then, the MIA can get an independent medical review and, if warranted, order the insurer to pay for the care.

Only 67 percent of consumers surveyed were satisfied with the insurer's internal review, the survey found. The MIA fielded 1,526 complaints last year, and conducted 255 full investigations.

Elsewhere

Plan would create new national airline to replace Swissair

Swiss government and industry officials agreed yesterday to spend $2.65 billion to create a new national airline on the ruins of Swissair, wrecked by the air travel chaos after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Under the plan, at least 9,000 jobs in the Swissair group are expected to be lost. Other proposed options could have cost up to 27,000 jobs. Swissair, which has a global work force of about 70,000, announced 9,000 job cuts earlier this month.

The package involves some of the biggest companies in Switzerland, including food and beverage giant Nestle SA as well as drug firms Novartis AG and Roche Group. The plan is to keep 26 jetliners capable of flying to the United States, Asia and Africa and 26 shorter-haul airliners for European flights, as well as 82 smaller planes from the Crossair fleet, the government said.

Farmers Insurance to pay $4.3 million to settle case

Farmers Insurance Group will pay $4.3 million to settle an Ohio case in which the company allegedly refused to insure homeowners in minority neighborhoods, Attorney General Betty Montgomery said yesterday.

The Los Angeles company will spend $3 million for grants and low-interest loans to develop, build and repair owner-occupied homes throughout the state and pay a total of $1.3 million to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the Toledo Fair Housing Center and Housing Advocates of Cleveland.

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