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An All Night Spermicide?

Inside Wall Street


For a money-losing young pharmaceutical company, Columbia Laboratories has been attracting some smart-money pros of late, including Stanley Knowlton of Knowlton Bros., whose firm took a 5.3% stake, and Bill Hopke of Dominion Capital (and an outside director of Columbia Labs), who owns close to 5%.

Here's why: The company, which has shifted its focus in the past year toward women's health-care products, is said to be ready to sign a marketing agreement with a U.S. pharmaceutical giant. The contract is for one of Columbia's new products, a spermicide called Advantage-24, which appears to be effective for 12 to 24 hours. It has been undergoing clinical tests at the University of Southern California, Britain's University of Manchester, and Tokyo University. Columbia President and CEO Norman Meier says the company is talking with several drugmakers.

One analyst says there are early indications that the spermicide also provides protection against sexually transmitted diseases. This source expects sales of Advantage-24 to start late this year overseas, possibly in Europe, and in the U.S. by next year.

One pro expects the company to become profitable this year. He bases his estimate on the worldwide licensing arrangements for Replens, Columbia's first product, which went on sale in early 1992. Replens is a vaginal moisturizer that Columbia markets with Warner-Lambert in the U.S. and with Johnson & Johnson in Belgium and Italy. Evan Sturza, editor of Sturza's Medical Investment Letter, who rates the stock as a strong buy, expects Columbia to earn 20 a share next year. One money manager sho has been accumulating shares sees the stock, now at 4 3/4, hitting 10 in a year.GENE G. MARCIAL

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