Healing News From Lifecell

As an upstart that's still trying to perfect several products, LifeCell hasn't recorded a single penny in sales. But the company has already enticed several big investors. One of them is Essex Investment Management, with assets of $2 billion. Essex has gained some publicity of late because its president, Joseph McNay, has been chosen by the White House to handle the Clintons' portfolio of about $1.2 million.

What turned McNay onto LifeCell? The stock was, in fact, brought to McNay's attention by another investor who specializes in technology and biotech stocks and is highly impressed with LifeCell's products-in-the-making. One of them is skin-replacement tissue that LifeCell hopes to market either late this year or early next year. AlloDerm skin replacement, says LifeCell President Paul Frison, eliminates the need for grafting the patient's own skin to the burned areas. Frison says several tests have shown that a third-degree burn grafted with AlloDerm healed well with a smooth skin and reduced contracture of the wound site.

Marc Klee, a portfolio manager at American Fund Advisors in Garden City, N.Y., says the market for human dermis transplants is in the range of $1 billion to $2 billion. He thinks LifeCell's stock, which jumped from 7 in April to 11, has yet to reflect the value of AlloDerm and the company's other products in the pipeline. They include the processing and preserving of human-cell products, such as freeze-dried blood for storage. He expects the company to turn profitable by 1995.