No vaccine or treatment for severe acute respiratory syndrome has yet appeared, and government money has just begun to flow to SARS research. Yet biotech companies have already cashed in on SARS fears, thanks to investors who scrambled to place their bets on the winners in the race against the new global scourge.
At biotech after biotech, the story was the same: a press release claiming connection to the search for a cure for SARS brought a nice bump-up in the stock price and a hefty increase in trading activity, no matter how small or struggling the source.
RIDING THE WAVE On April 24, Genomed of St. Louis was selling for a penny a share in off-exchange trading. Then came the first of a flurry of SARS-related press releases, and the company's posted selling price quadrupled, to 4 cents per share. The most recent Securities and Exchange Commission documents reflect that Genomed had $2,732 cash on hand to accomplish its ambitious objectives, which include clinical trials involving Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, blindness, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney failure, sickle cell disease, and emphysema, as well as SARS. These objectives were itemized in company press releases from only May and June of this year.
Shareholders of Philadelphia-based Hemispherx Biopharma have not seen a profit since the mid-1980's. Ampligen, its flag-ship product, has spent more than 13 years in clinical trials, with no FDA approval to show for the effort. Hemispherx played the SARS card several times in its press announcements and won a ride up from below $z per share to almost $3 per share.
On May 19, about 6.5 million shares of Viragen sold for between 11 cents and 13 cents per share. The next day, 175.7 million shares changed hands, at prices as high as 66 cents per share, thanks to an announcement that the company had filed for a SARS drug patent. The Plantation, Fla.-based developer of natural interferons owns most of an international subsidiary that trades in the...
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