"Lab Industry Briefs"

Epitope, LabOne, CARESIDE, Quest, Structural Bioinformatics, UroCor

EPITOPE RAIDS LABONE FOR NEW PRESIDENT/CEO; READIES DRUGS OF ABUSE MARKET LAUNCH

DURING THE YEAR 2000, Epitope, Inc., based in Portland, Oregon, plans to introduce a drugs of abuse test based on its patented OraSure® oral collection technology.

To aid in this new product launch, Epitope raided the executive ranks of its biggest customer. Robert D. Thompson, formerly the COO and Chief Financial Officer of LabOne, Inc. in Lenexa, Kansas. Thompson will become President and CEO at Epitope. He is to assume his duties there today, January 24, 2000.

Prior to joining LabOne in 1993, Thompson had been Chief Financial Officer at MetWest, Inc., a clinical laboratory then based in Dallas. Thompson played a major role in helping LabOne return to financial health in recent years.

Epitope’s sales currently range about $10 million per year. Most of this comes from its OraSure HIV-1 test. It has FDA approval to use OraSure with enzyme immunoassays manufactured by STC Technologies, Inc. to test for cannabinoids (marijuana), amphetamines and methamphetamines, opiates, and cocaine. This product is called Intercept™. Epitope is working to obtain FDA clearance for a phencyclidine (PCP) test.

Epitope and LabOne enjoy a tight relationship. LabOne is the nation’s dominant provider of lab testing for life insurance companies. This is a big market for Epitope’s HIV testing.

This relationship will apparently continue into the drugs of abuse arena. Last May, LabOne and STC Technologies signed an agreement for LabOne to market and provide oral fluid analysis for the Intercept Drugs Of Abuse product line in North America for work-site drug testing.

During Thompson’s management stint at LabOne, it enjoyed steady growth in revenues and operating prof- its. It also successfully diversified its revenues by entering several different segments of the laboratory testing marketplace. (See TDR, April 29, 1996 and November 17, 1997.)

With Thompson at Epitope’s helm and a drugs of abuse product ready for launch, Epitope may be poised for steady growth. Further, Thompson will probably push Epitope to distribute its OraSure-based tests into other segments of the laboratory industry, both in the United States and abroad.

One of the interesting aspects about Epitope is that its test technology is non-invasive and cost-competitive. As a patient-friendly HIV screening test, it has found ready acceptance in the life insurance industry and AIDs clinics around the country.

CARESIDE, INC. BEEFS UP MANAGEMENT TEAM WITH THREE NEW HIRES

ANOTHER COMPANY IN THE MIDDLE of a product launch is CARESIDE, Inc. of Culver City, California. Like Epitope, it is beefing up its management team as it prepares to officially launch sales of its point-of-care system for routine chemistry and hematology.

Careside is bringing three new executives to the company. Dennis Rieger will be Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. Sandra Twyon is now Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Grant Frazier became Vice President of Marketing.

Careside has a point-of-care product for routine chemistry and hematology testing. It wants to place these instruments in hospitals, laboratories, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and other types of healthcare facilities. It has been hiring sales representatives and started to actively market its point-of-care solution.

PHARMACOGENOMICS IS TARGET OF PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN QUEST AND BIOINFORMATICS COMPANY

HAVE YOU HEARD of computational proteomics? That’s the process used to develop a pharmacogenomics data base that Quest Diagnostics Incorporated will market in conjunction with Structural Bioinformatics, Inc. of San Diego, California.

Both companies announced the availability of “two structural pharmacogenomic databases targeted at HIV- Protease and HIV-Reverse Transcriptase,” effective February 2000.

Each database consists of a “large-scale collection of high-quality protein structures generated from the genetic sequence variants (polymorphisms) of a single drug target derived from many individuals.”

The database will be used by drug companies, researchers, and others to understand the differences in interactions between a drug and the structural variations of its intended target.

The co-marketing of this database by Quest Diagnostics and its creator, Structural Bioinformatics, shows the intersection between clinical testing and pharmacogenomic research. With the increased volume of HIV typing and viral load testing, Quest Diagnostics has access to biosamples which can be used to identify new mutations.

In fact, the two companies claim that up to 1,000 sequences/structures are being added monthly to this database. Its intended use is to help combat HIV drug resistance and provide researchers with more comprehensive data than currently available in “mutation tables” which list amino acid positions and mutations which may correlate to drug resistance.

THE DARK REPORT expects that there will be an increased number of these kinds of relationships announced by the two blood brothers during the next years. To maintain sufficient profitability as reimbursement for routine testing continues to decline, both Quest Diagnostics and Laboratory Corporation of America need to develop revenues from the information generated by clinical testing and the specimens submitted to their laboratories.

INVESTORS RESPOND TO UROCOR’S MOVE INTO THERAPEUTICS

INVESTORS GAVE A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE to UroCor, Inc.’s move into therapeutics. The company’s share price doubled after the FDA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cleared UroCor’s radioactive prostate cancer treatment for clinical use.

Called ProstaSeed, the product will be co-marketed by UroCor, Mallinckrodt Inc., and Prostate Services of America. UroCor offers diagnostic testing services to urologists nationwide.

UroCor’s expertise in urological diseases, combined with its relationships with urologists, may make it successful in offering therapeutic services as well as diagnostics. Rapid gains in Urocor’s stock price indicate that investors agree.

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