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Iridex May Open More Investors' Eyes

Nothing hurts a stock more than disappointing results -- from earnings or a new drug or medical product. That's what torpedoed Iridex (IRIX), a maker of laser systems to treat eye ailments: It dived from 7.19 on Oct. 20 to 3.95 within days after initial results of clinical trials on Iridex' TTT (transpupillary thermotherapy) product -- for age-related [wet] macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness -- disappointed investors.

Dr. Elias Reichel, an ophthalmology professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and chief of the two-year trial, said further analysis of the results was needed: He called the 47% of patients responding positively to TTT "statistically insignificant" compared with the placebo group. Larry Haimovitch, whose medical technology consulting firm owns shares, expects a more favorable interpretation of the data when Reichel elaborates on the study at a Macula Society conference in Key Biscayne, Fla., on Feb. 25. And recently the stock has spiked, to 5. John Porter of Arabella Securities sees it earning 24 cents a share in 2005 on sales of $35.5 million, and 35 cents in 2006 on 38.4 million. Haimovitch is predicting the stock price will double in 12 months.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

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