Investors taking stock in Crop GeneticsInvestors appear...


Investors taking stock in Crop Genetics

Investors appear to be anticipating some good news from Crop Genetics International.

After hovering in the $4 range for months, Crop Genetics' stock has been rising since early November, and in the past few days has jumped as high as $6. It closed at $5.88 yesterday.

Volume also is up: On Thursday, the stock traded at four times the average daily volume of about 100,000 shares, on Friday at more than twice the average.

Investors apparently believe the Hanover-based company will get the Environmental Protection Agency's approval to sell one or more of its insecticidal viruses, which are being developed with Du Pont, analysts say.

Du Pont must decide by the end of the year whether to extend its agreement to develop those products. Investors expect Du Pont to stay in and to invest an additional $2 million in the next year.

In addition, Crop Genetics is looking for a large seed or agriculture chemical company to become a partner in developing a product that attacks the corn borer. Crop Genetics needs a partner for the large-scale field tests that would prove the product is effective.

Still, the company hasn't made any recent announcements that would account for the stock surge. Chief Executive Joseph Kelly says the company may be riding the coattails of Calgene, a large agricultural biotech company that will soon sell the first genetically engineered tomato.

Buried in a new report detailing New York City's decline in biomedical research is some encouraging news for Baltimore's life sciences initiative.

Baltimore was ranked fourth in the country in the amount of money received from the National Institutes of Health and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, two of the largest sources of federal funds for biomedical research.

In 1990, Baltimore received $378 million. The New York and New Jersey region received $643 million, the Boston region got $672 million and the San Francisco region received $410 million. Those regions also have the largest biotech industries.

Even though Baltimore ranked fourth, the amount of NIH and ADAMHA money coming to the city increased 50 percent from 1987 to 1990. And Baltimore's share rose even faster than the agencies' budgets.

"Baltimore is one of the leading centers for drug abuse research," said Roy W. Pickens, director of the Addiction Research Center in Baltimore, which is part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

About two-thirds of the money coming to Baltimore went to Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland at Baltimore. "Those institutions in the Baltimore area were growing in space, facilities and faculty and that allowed them to compete successfully for NIH funds," said Michael Amey, assistant dean for research administration at Hopkins' medical school.

Although Baltimore and Washington -- which saw a 74 percent increase in NIH and ADAMHA money from 1987 to 1990 -- have fared well, competition for that money will grow more fierce. NIH funding to institutions and companies increased by 21 percent from 1987 to 1990, but has been flat over the past two years. "So, real growth has been totally dependant on out-competing [other research institutions]," Mr. Amey said.

But Hopkins and the University of Maryland will be turning to another source -- corporations -- for money.

Hopkins has relaxed its conflict-of-interest rules and now allows the university and researchers to hold equity stakes in companies. That will encourage closer relationships with business and more research sponsored by corporations.

Genetic Therapy seeks gene license

Genetic Therapy Inc., a Gaithersburg biotech company, is negotiating with the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto to acquire licenses to the cystic fibrosis gene.

Last week, an NIH advisory committee agreed to let researchers test a gene therapy for cystic fibrosis patients -- a type of product that Genetic Therapy would someday like to sell.

Owning a gene may seem strange, but, in fact, a number of universities and the federal government hold patents to genes.

When researchers identify the structure of a gene, they can apply for a patent. That doesn't mean that the structure of the gene is secret. In fact, the information is widely available to researchers. But it does mean that a company cannot freely use information about a gene's structure to create products.

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