- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Shares of Human Genome Sciences Inc. climbed 10.5 percent after the Rockville, Md., company said yesterday that pharmaceutical giant SmithKline Beecham PLC will co-develop its most advanced drug, the wound-healing Repifermin.

"It's a validation of what they have been doing all these years," said Yi Ri, an analyst with Mehta Partners in New York. "They can only go up from here. I think the prospects are excellent."

Shares of Human Genome Sciences, a biotechnology company that researches and makes drugs and diagnostic products based on its knowledge of human genes, closed yesterday at $90.06 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, up $8.56 from Friday.

The stock reached a 52-week high of $116.38 in March and a 52-week low of $17.84 a year ago.

The deal with SmithKline means "that we now have a partner to develop a drug that has applications in several diseases that have large patient populations, so we are very pleased," said Kate de Santis, a spokeswoman for Human Genome.

"It means that we can save some of our cash resources and instead of paying for all of the development of this drug ourselves, we have someone to share the expenses with," she added.

Repifermin is Human Genome's most advanced drug. It spurs growth of skin cells, healing wounds like burns and sores that are sometimes impossible to treat.

Although this is the first drug that SmithKline wants to co-develop with Human Genome, the companies have been working together since 1993, when they signed an agreement that gave SmithKline exclusive access to Human Genome's gene database.

At the time, the study of human genes for the purpose of making drugs was not a popular industry. But the genomics field has become more prevalent, particularly since June, when scientists from Rockville-based Celera Genomics Group and an international scientific consortium finished a map of the genetic makeup.

Starting in 1995, Human Genome gave access to its gene database to four other drug makers: Takeda Chemicals Industries Inc. of Japan; Schering-Plough Corp. of Madison, N.J.; Synthelabo of France; and Merck KGaA of Germany.

The genomics company will collect royalties on any drugs that result from these partnerships. The deals expire in July.

Aside from Repifermin, Human Genome is developing other patented drugs, which are awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration:

• Testing of Mirostipen has shown that it improves the safety of many cancer treatments by reducing side effects, the company says.

• BLyS fights immunodeficiency disorders that come with illnesses like AIDS and cancer, and as side effects to organ-transplant procedures. It also can be used to boost the immune systems of senior citizens, the company says. Schering-Plough last week signed a deal with the company to develop and commercialize the drug.

• As a side project to BLyS, Human Genome is developing human antibodies as drugs. Anti-BLyS can treat diseases, like multiple sclerosis and arthritis, that arise from the overproduction of antibodies, the company said.

• Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-2 or VEGF-2 makes blood and lymph vessels grow, treating certain heart diseases. Vascular Genetics Inc., a sister company to Human Genome, is developing the drug.

Human Genome has applied for patents on more than 9,700 genes and their proteins and is working on developing another dozen drugs.

For its second quarter ended June 30, the company's net losses grew to $9 million (8 cents per diluted share) from $2.25 million (5 cents) a year earlier. Net sales fell 15 percent to $12.5 million from $14.8 million a year ago.

Diluted earnings per share reflect options, warrants and other securities convertible into common stock.

The company has not reported third-quarter earnings.

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