Word Of Mouth At Emisphere

The stock of Emisphere Technol Jan. 14 above 23. No, this little drug outfit hasn't come up with a cure for cancer. In fact, it has yet to produce revenues. What gives?

Emisphere is developing proprietary technologies to deliver orally certain drugs that can so far be taken only by injection. Powering the stock's surge are Emisphere's efforts to sign up major drugmakers as partners in commercializing its products.

One big believer in Emisphere's technologies: Elan, a worldwide biopharmaceutical company, has taken an 8% stake after forming a joint venture with Emisphere to develop an oral version of Heparin, an anticoagulant and antithrombotic compound for cardiovascular disorders. Emisphere Chairman Michael Goldberg says results from the first tests showed that "clinically relevant levels of Heparin could be safely delivered orally using Emisphere's proprietary carriers."

But the biggest fillip for Emisphere's stock lately is a rumor that the company is forming an alliance with Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis drug giant. "If the rumors turn out to be accurate, it will be another validation of the great promise of Emisphere's technologies," says Barry Kurokawa, a partner at ProMed Management, which invests mainly in health-care stocks. A deal with Lilly "will be huge and involve a number of products," says one New York money manager. And it's likely that Lilly will take a big equity stake in Emisphere, he adds.

Analyst Wole Fayemi of Genesis Merchant Group in San Francisco thinks the stock will hit 40 in a year.

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