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Feeling A Rush At Columbia Labs


Inside Wall Street

FEELING A RUSH AT COLUMBIA LABS

In the past three years, the shares of Columbia Laboratories (COB) have forged ahead, rising from about 4 to 113/4 lately. But guess what? They're destined to hit 20 by yearend.

So says Bart Blout, president of Sawtooth Capital Management and vice-president for research at Strome Susskind Securities. The two firms own a combined 10% of Columbia. Also bullish is BioVest Research analyst Eddie Hedaya, who thinks Columbia will start making money this year. Based on fast-moving events and revenues from its products, he thinks Columbia could see its earnings double each year over the next two years, to about $1.50, up from an estimated 23 cents this year.

One reason is a pact that Columbia signed last May for American Home Products to market worldwide its chief product--Crinone--a vaginally applied hormone replacement for post-menopausal women. American Home paid Columbia $6 million upon signing and will make further payments totaling $19 million--for overseas approvals and upon reaching certain sales levels. Approval of Crinone in Britain, for instance, triggered a $2 million payment in June, 1995. And this January, there was a further $1.5 million when the drug got the nod from French regulators. Germany and Italy should give the O.K. in a few months.

Thus, American Home may launch Crinone in Europe in the second half of this year. Introduction in the U.S. is expected by 1997, pending Food & Drug Administration approval. Columbia gets a 30% royalty on sales.

Columbia has another blockbuster in the pipeline: SPC3--a drug that could block all strains of HIV from entering susceptible human cells. The company has filed an FDA application to start clinical trials of this AIDS therapy.

Some observers believe that, once Crinone is launched, American Home will acquire Columbia Labs. "That's certainly a logical possibility," says a Columbia insider.BY GENE G. MARCIAL


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