- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

Human Genome Sciences Inc. is a leader in its field, a fact reflected in its partnerships and finances.

The Rockville-based company researches and makes drugs and diagnostic products based on its knowledge of human genes.

"They have very good management, about $860 million in cash, and last week they filed to sell $1 billion of securities," said Yi Ri, an analyst with Mehta Partners in New York. "That means they have money for everything for the next two years."

Last week HGS also said it bought Principia Pharmaceutical Corp., a drug development company, for about $120 million in shares.

"The acquisition provides HGS with a powerful technology for increasing the production, efficiency and stability of protein therapeutics and peptide therapeutics that HGS is developing," Alex To, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston, wrote in his weekly report on the company.

Shares of HGS closed Friday at $xxx on Nasdaq. That price is off the stock's 52-week high in March of $232.75. But it is also well above the $34.75 it was valued a year ago.

Since its foundation in 1991, HGS had been exploring genes by using shortcut techniques, because scientists did not yet have a map of the human genes. The completion of such a map was announced in June, but HGS had a head start.

The company collaborates with a dozen pharmaceutical giants such as SmithKline Beecham.

Today HGS is testing four patented drugs that are waiting for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Its most prominent drug is Repifermin, which helps grow human skin, healing wounds that were once impossible to treat.

"The most optimistic scenario would put this drug through the FDA clearing process within a couple of years," said Mr. Metz, adding that HGS recently reported positive results on Repifermin's testing.

Another drug in the works is Mirostipen, which could improve the safety of many cancer treatments by reducing side effects. Cancer treatments often cause tissue damage that results in infection. But testing of Mirostipen has shown that the drug helps tissues grow even under cancer treatment.

The company is also testing B. lymphocyte stimulator, better knows as BLyS, which is a protein that stimulates the body's immune system to produce antibodies that defend it from infection.

HGS says that the protein can be used to fight immunodeficiency illnesses such as AIDS and certain cancers, as well as weakness caused by organ transplant procedures. It can also be used to boost the immune system of elderly people.

As a side project to BLyS, HGS has begun developing human antibodies as drugs. Anti-BLyS can treat diseases that arise from the overproduction of antibodies, such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

HGS has also found a gene that encodes a protein that makes blood and lymph vessels grow, treating certain heart diseases.

The company has "hopes of having as many as two additional drugs put in before the FDA for testing before the end of the year," said Mr. Metz.

For its second quarter ended June 30, HGS reported net income loss rose 60 percent to $9 million (16 cents per diluted share) from $2.25 million (5 cents) for the like period last year. Net sales decreased 16 percent to $12.6 million from $14.8 million for the like period.

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