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Biotech—Artificial blood tests give Alliance Pharmaceuticals a good sign for European approvals



Illumina Reports Substantial Losses

For Second Quarter

Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp. announced first results from a late-stage trial of its artificial blood substitute, Oxygent, were encouraging enough to file for European regulatory approval next year.

The San Diego-based biotech firm reported Sept. 11 a 492-patient trial using Oxygent showed a reduction in blood transfusions and units of donor blood needed during surgery.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of the European general surgery study,” said Duane Roth, chairman and CEO of Alliance.

“This is very good data,” agreed Fariba Ghodsian, a financial analyst at Cruttenden Roth Inc. in Los Angeles. “It clearly showed Oxygent did reduce the need for donor blood transfusions.”

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Ghodsian is optimistic the results should be sufficient to file for European regulatory approval.

Alliance said earlier it hopes to file for regulatory approval in Europe for Oxygent during the first quarter of 2001 and in the United States during the third quarter next year.

Oxygent, if approved, would be the first blood substitute on the market. It is designed as a substance for “bloodless surgery.”

The idea is for doctors to take out about one-third of the patient’s blood prior to surgery.

Oxygent is given during surgery to carry oxygen to the body’s tissue and thus, avoid the use of donor blood.

After the operation, patients receive their own stored blood back.

More results from the 18-month European trial (as of September) will be presented at the American Society of Anesthesiology meeting in San Francisco next month, said Alliance spokeswoman Gwen Rosenberg.

Final results will be presented at the European Society of Anesthesiology meeting next April in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In May 2000, Alliance signed an agreement with Deerfield, Ill.-based health care giant Baxter Healthcare Corp. to fund clinical trials, make and sell Oxygent in the United States, Canada and Europe following drug approval.

Baxter paid Alliance $25 million as part of the agreement and is expected to pay another $30 by March 2001, Alliance said.

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Illumina Results: San Diego-based biotech firm Illumina Inc. reported a nearly fivefold increase in its second-quarter net loss ended June 30.

Illumina, which developed a technology to screen potential drug candidates for life sciences firms faster and cheaper, reported a second-quarter net loss of $5.3 million compared to $1.1 million during the same period in 1999.

Jay Flatley, president and CEO of Illumina, attributes the rise in net loss to higher research spending and $1.8 million in charges incurred as a result of selling common shares to employees.

Analysts expect Illumina will break even in 2003 driven by revenues, Flatley said.

Second-quarter sales in 2000 declined to $79,000 from $130,000 during the same period a year ago.

Net loss for the six months ended June 30 was $10.1 million, or $4.27 a share, vs. a net loss of $2 million, or $1.80 a share, during the same period in 1999.

Six-month revenues ended June 30 fell to $162,000 from $172,000 for the six-month period in 1999.

Cash and equivalents of $19.6 million as of June 30 do not include the $96 million in net proceeds from the firm’s initial public offering July 28.

The company went public that day.

Webb can be reached at mwebb@sdbj.com.

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