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    5. Biogen Inc.

    By Ronald Rosenberg, Globe Staff, 05/18/99

    One of the oldest New England biotechnology firms and a former number one Globe 100 company, Biogen remains a stellar performer at number five for 1998.

    Biogen is flying high on strong sales of Avonex, its injectable drug to treat multiple sclerosis, and growing royalty revenues from medical vaccines and drugs it has licensed to several major pharmaceutical companies.

    That combination - plus the fact that Biogen is one of the few profitable biotech companies and has a pipeline of potential drugs led by Amevive, a psoriasis drug - sent the company's stock soaring to 867/8 in late December after a 52-week low of 331/4 in January 1998.

    And although Amevive is not likely to reach the market for two years, Biogen continues to depend on Avonex, which last year had revenues of more than $390 million. The injectable drug, taken by 70,000 people worldwide, has become the leading medication in its area. Despite new competitors entering the multiple sclerosis treatment arena, analysts at Hambrecht & Quist expect Biogen to continue to dominate the market, with Avonex sales reaching $680 million from 82,000 patients worldwide by the end of 2001.

    Similarly, the $160 million in royalty fees Biogen received from drugs it developed and licensed during the 1980s - such as a hepatitis B vaccine sold by Merck & Co. and Intron A, an alpha interferon product produced by Schering-Plough Inc. - are expected to nearly double to $300 million by 2001, according to Hambrecht & Quist.

    Perhaps the only surprise at Biogen in 1998 was the sudden resignation of its president, James Tobin, after four years. He left the company over some disagreements with chairman Jim Vincent, who continues to run the company. James C. Mullen is its president and chief operating officer.

    Looking ahead, Biogen is ''one of the strongest companies in the biotech industry,'' noted Richard A. van den Broek, biotechnology analyst at Hambrecht & Quist.

    This story ran on page D9 of the Boston Globe on 05/18/99.
    © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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