Inside Wall Street
PEPPED UP OVER CHRONIC FATIGUE
We aren't biotech investors, "but we've bought into Hemispherx BioPharma--the only biotech in our portfolio," says Richard Sinise of Kennedy Capital Management in St. Louis, which manages some $1.5 billion. Sinise isn't the only believer. Investors Larry Tisch and Gerry Tsai also are stakeholders in the young company. What's so hot about Hemispherx (HEMX)? The stock sure hasn't been on a roll: Now at 21/2, it has traded between 2 and 4 since July.
The company has a portfolio of 200 patents for technologies that use ribonucleic-acid molecules in products to treat viral diseases, certain cancers, and immune-system dysfunction. One of its major products is Ampligen, now in its third clinical tests for treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hepatitis B, and HIV. The trials, approved by the Food & Drug Administration, are under way in 30 sites.
An Ampligen diagnostic-test kit has received patent approval in 10 European countries. It checks blood cells for immune deficits believed to be characteristic of CFS. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has included CFS as a "priority one disease" on its list of "new, reemerging, and drug-resistant infectious diseases," says Dr. William Carter, chairman and CEO of Hemispherx. There isn't any approved therapy for CFS, he says, adding that a protocol using Ampligen for treatment of CFS patients has been submitted to the FDA for approval. Ampligen, he claims, relieves all the symptoms of CFS, including pain. Carter says Hemispherx has signed a manufacturing pact with Pharmacia-Upjohn, which has taken a 2% stake in Hemispherx.
Analyst David Watumull of First Honolulu Securities, says Hemispherx--"at just $140 million in market cap--represents a compelling investment value."BY GENE G. MARCIAL