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Is Synergen The Next Amgen?


Inside Wall Street

IS SYNERGEN THE NEXT AMGEN?

When the attempted Gorbachev ouster hammered down the Dow by 100 points on the morning of Aug. 19, investment manager Warren Greene snapped up shares of Synergen as they tumbled nearly 2 points, to 39 1/2 a share. No, Synergen isn't in the defense business; it's a biotech stock that Greene had been buying for weeks at higher prices, so when it slumped, he jumped at the chance of buying more. By Aug. 21, Synergen had rebounded to 44.

Greene, president of American Investors Growth Fund, is convinced Synergen will be a blockbuster drug company. "It's the next Amgen," he insists, noting that Synergen has been showing a pattern of growing investor interest similar to that of Amgen's. He notes that he bought Amgen in January at 40; it's now 140.

"Synergen is developing what could be the best batch of important biopharmaceuticals that will hit the market in 1993 through 1996," says Greene. One of them, the "Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist," trademarked Antril, is currently in clinical trials as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and toxic and septic shock. He says the market for the drug is about $1.5 billion a year.

Warren Lammert, a senior analyst at Janus Capital, which has accumulated more than 5% of the stock, expects the stock will double in a year. Another bull is Mark Simon of Robertson, Stephens in San Francisco. He notes that although Synergen has surged 75% since late January, it's still viewed as a second-tier biotech company. But Simon expects that in the next 6 to 12 months, its technology and products will propel Synergy into the first tier, where market valuations are $650 million to $800 million, vs. Synergen's current value of $460 million.GENE G. MARCIAL


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