Crucell Turns to West Nile Virus

With the nationwide scare over West Nile virus, some pros are making sure not to pass up the depressed shares of Crucell (CRXL ), a small Dutch biotech outfit. The company--which trades in Amsterdam and on the Nasdaq, where it fetches 3.75 a share--makes vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases. It recently signed a yet-to-be-announced agreement with the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine against West Nile. A money manager who refused to be named has bought 500,000 shares and says a West Nile vaccine could produce huge revenues for Crucell, which already has partnerships with Merck (MRK ), MedImmune (MEDI ), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ), and Novartis (NVS )--on Crucell's cell production for treating other conditions, such as HIV. Stephen McGarry of Goldman Sachs (GS ), which helped get Crucell onto the Nasdaq, says developing the West Nile vaccine could lead to lucrative opportunities. Crucell, which is on McGarry's recommended list, is developing cancer antibodies and treatments for inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. It's still uncertain how fast Crucell can produce a West Nile vaccine. Crucell has yet to join forces with a major company for the project. CFO Len Kramuir wouldn't talk specifically about the West Nile vaccine.

By Gene G. Marcial

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