Md. biotech executive leaves

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A top executive at the Gaithersburg drugmaker MedImmune Inc. has left - the latest change for a company some view as a prime takeover target.

In a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it had agreed to terminate without cause the employment of Armando Anido, executive vice president for sales and marketing. Anido did not return a phone call to his home.

"Armando plans to spend more time with his family and to pursue other opportunities," MedImmune spokeswoman Jamie P. Lacey said.

Last month, the company altered employment agreements with Anido and four other top officials to increase the payments they would receive should the company be acquired. The others were Chief Executive Officer David M. Mott; company founder Wayne T. Hockmeyer; James F. Young, president of research and development, and Edward M. Connor, executive vice president and chief medical officer.

Several drug companies have made similar changes to employment contracts recently as cash-rich, but product-poor pharmaceutical giants have snapped up biotech businesses with potential new products. MedImmune, too, has beefed up its own store of new drug candidates through acquisition.

Anido has been the company's senior sales and marketing officer since 1999, in charge of promoting all commercialized products. That included FluMist, a nasal spray influenza vaccine that some analysts said failed in the marketplace because it wasn't effectively advertised.

"Since the launch of FluMist a couple of years ago, at least in Wall Street's eyes, Armando's been in a bit of a hot seat because that launch didn't go so well," said Philip Nadeau, a biotech analyst with S.G. Cowen & Co. LLC, an investment firm based in New York.

While MedImmune searches for a replacement, Mott will oversee product promotion, said Lacey, the company spokeswoman.

In a report last month, Geoffrey C. Porges, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC in New York, wrote that MedImmune and its assets are "one of the few remaining obvious acquisition candidates" among such smaller companies.

"Pharmaceutical companies are desperate to get into biotech, and there are very few biotechs around with strong [products] and attractive cash flow. MedImmune is one of them," Porges, who does not own shares in MedImmune, said in an interview yesterday.

"This is a company that I believe, and I think many investors believe, will ultimately be acquired by a pharmaceutical partner," he said.

Some said MedImmune's management would be resistant to acquisition.

"They're still in the early parts of their [strategic] plan," said Hamed Khorsand, who follows MedImmune for California-based BWS Financial and does not own any of the company's stock.

Khorsand believes management will want to retain control of the company's future, which includes new versions of an infant respiratory treatment, from which the company earns most of its revenue, and FluMist, for which MedImmune is best known.

Two other products are also expected to come on the market by 2010.

"It's certainly a good time for us to make critical strategic changes to help us reach those goals," Lacey said.

But, she added, those changes don't include acquisition. "We believe it's in the best interests of our shareholders at this time to move forward as an independent company.

"Beyond that, we don't comment on rumor or speculation."

Shares of MedImmune rose 13 cents, or 0.4 percent, to close at $34.62 in trading yesterday on the Nasdaq stock market.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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