Md. biotech plans 3-pronged expansion

BioVeris to use strengths in vaccine technology, immune testing

October 20, 2004|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

BioVeris Corp. yesterday unveiled a plan to use its core strength in diagnostics to expand into new businesses including immune response, vaccines and vaccine systems.

The Gaithersburg company's officials told shareholders at the firm's annual meeting at the Ritz Carlton in McLean, Va., that its new strategy is, in part, a way to leverage existing technology.

"We think this is an opportunity for significant growth potential," said Richard J. Massey, BioVeris' president and chief operating officer.

Company officials said they were targeting immunogenicity, or the measure of a body's immune response to new drugs and therapies, in part because the firm could adapt its hardware and other products.

BioVeris said it is developing a whole new approach for determining a person's immune status to multiple maladies, and has filed for patent protection on a related product.

Immunogenicity has applications with drug-development companies as well, the company said.

As protein-based medicines and therapeutics increase in both number and use, the need to test for unwanted immune responses will increase, too, creating this additional market for this BioVeris technology, the company said.

And if this overall approach is found to have merit, BioVeris said health organizations could adopt it as a way of evaluating how susceptible different populations within regions or countries might be to various outbreaks,.

Vaccines and vaccine services are the other two areas the company identified yesterday as central to its new strategy.

BioVeris said it has entered into an exclusive option agreement with Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, Calif., giving the firm negotiating rights for a patent on a meningitis drug.

BioVeris was formed in 2003 after Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, paid $1.26 billion for part of IGEN International of Gaithersburg as a way of settling a patent dispute. IGEN shareholders subsequently received shares in a new company, which became BioVeris. For the fiscal year ended March 31, BioVeris reported a net loss of $93.32 million, or $3.49 per share, on revenue of $19.96 million.

BioVeris also said yesterday that independent appraisers concluded the company's share in a scandal-plagued subsidiary was worth approximately $9.9 million. The appraisal will enable BioVeris to finalize the sale of its interest in Meso Scale Diagnostics LLC to joint-venture partner Meso Scale Technologies LLC.

The transfer of BioVeris' interests in the venture will occur by year-end, although the payout will take place over time, the company said. BioVeris said it has has received about $2 million as part of an August settlement that will serve as a credit against future payments.

The other partner in the MSD joint venture was Meso Scale Technologies, a firm that BioVeris said was wholly owned by Jacob Wohlstadter, son of BioVeris Chairman and chief executive Samuel J. Wohlstadter.

Several suits filed by BioVeris alleged that the son went on an unauthorized spending spree, using $7 million from the MSD joint venture to purchase 10 luxury autos and a $4.2 million New York condominium. The August settlement ended the suits, BioVeris said recently.

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