An Aids Treatment From Canada

It wasn't long ago that a stock zoomed at the mere hint of a link to an AIDS-related product. Although that kind of clout has all but faded on the Street, some pros are buying Quebec-based Biochem Pharma because of its experimental anti-AIDS drug, 3TC. Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo is Biochem's partner in developing it.

Biochem's stock, which traded on the NASDAQ at 9 in mid-October, has risen to 113 8. Its supporters think the stock could hit 20 over the next 12 months.

One reason, they say, is that 3TC was cleared by the Food & Drug Administration on Nov. 3 for the "compassionate use program." Canada has allowed the drug to be dispensed under a similar program. The U.S. plan allows physicians to provide 3TC free of charge to HIV-infected patients who fail to respond to or can't tolerate other anti-AIDS therapy, such as AZT. To be sure, 3TC, which is taken orally, isn't a cure for AIDS, explains Tim Wilson, an analyst at Hambrecht & Quist, who is bullish on the stock. He says the drug inhibits the disease's spread by interacting with an enzyme that the AIDS virus tends to replicate. Dr. John Gillard, Biochem's vice-president for therapeutic research, explains that 3TC tricks the virus into using the wrong molecular "building block" to duplicate itself. And, he adds, 3TC doesn't produce the harsh side effects that other therapies can provoke. Clinical tests on 3TC are expected to be completed by early 1994, after which Glaxo will seek FDA approval to market it in the U.S. Dr. Gillard says 3TC also can be used to treat hepatitis B.