Announcement of sweetener sends Biospherics stock up


Stock in Beltsville-based Biospherics Inc. soared 72 percent yesterday, after the firm announced plans to sell a new low-calorie sweetener in overseas markets early next year.

Vice President Lee R. Zehner said the plan became viable after the sweetener passed two testing milestones: creation of chocolate candies and spearmint chewing gums, and lab reports showing no toxic effects on animals that ate large amounts of it in addition to their normal diets.

The stock shot up nearly 60 percent on the Nasdaq exchange within an hour after Mr. Zehner's announcement. It ended the day at $10.75, $4.50 over its Friday close.

On Oct. 5, Biospherics stock leaped 51 percent after the firm announced preliminary clearance of a patent to use the same product, called D-tagatose, to fight aging of human organs as well as for sweetening. Until yesterday, it had been slowly drifting back downward since Oct. 6.

Biospherics, a $16 million-a-year scientific-services firm, is working on plans to have D-tagatose manufactured for test marketing. "We are not a chemical company, and we just don't have the pots and pans in place to do the manufacturing ourselves at this stage," Mr. Zehner said.

D-tagatose is a sugar made from whey, a little-used byproduct of cheesemaking. Unlike other low-calorie sweeteners, the product has about the same bulk as table sugar and can be used more readily in candies.

Commercial use of D-tagatose in the United States, the substance's biggest prospective market, is about five years away, assuming that testing and U.S. government approvals go smoothly, Mr. Zehner said.

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