“May 30, 2005 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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It’s been a revolving door for senior executives at Specialty Laboratories, Inc. during the past seven weeks. Gone by resignation is CFO Kevin Sayer (effective May 16). Gone by elimination of positions are Dan R. Angress, Sr. VP/Business Development (April 8) and Cynthia K. French, Ph.D., VP/Chief Science Officer (April 8). Gone by termination without cause is Mark R. Willig, Sr. VP/ Sales & Marketing (May 3). Another resignation was Greg Mann, Director of Communications (May 13).

ADD TO: Specialty Labs

In the midst of this tidal wave of executive turnover, the interesting news is that Vicki Di Francesco was hired on May 3, 2005 to be Specialty Labs’ new Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing. Di Francesco faces a number of daunting challenges. Not the least is the fact that many sales reps at the company have been demoralized by the rapid turnover in the company’s executive team.

MERCK’S HPV VACCINE SCORES WELL IN TRIALS, APPLICATION TO FDA EXPECTED IN MONTHS

In the race to be first to bring an HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to market, Merck & Co. appears to be moving faster than Glaxo-SmithKline Plc. Merck’s latest advance was a study it presented in Spain earlier this month. Its HPV vaccine, called Guardisil™, produced a higher immune system response in a group of adolescent boys and girls aged between 10 and 15 years old, compared to a group of women aged 16 to 23. This study measured immune system response by looking at the development of HPV-specific antibodies in the blood. It determined that the antibody rate in adolescents was 100% for three types of HPV virus and 99.9% for a fourth HPV type.

ADD TO: HPV Vaccine

Financial analysts responded to the news of the Merck study with predictions that the company would file an application with the FDA for approval of the vaccine by the end of this year. Glaxo’s HPV vaccine is called Cervarix™. Glaxo intends to file for regulatory approval in Europe during 2006. HPV’s links to cervical cancer mean that HPV vaccines will eventually impact cervical cancer screening practices. It is a new variable with the potential to alter how laboratories provide diagnostic services in support of cervical cancer screening.

HSA PREMIUMS DECLINE

Here’s a provocative bit of market intelligence. Five insurance companies, including Pacificare Health Systems, are lowering premiums for existing HSA-eligible insurance products. HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) were created in December 2003 and involve a two-part health plan. The consumer purchases a high-deductible health insurance policy and also opens a tax-sheltered account to be used to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses. Experts say it is premature to declare that this round of HSA premium reductions is attributable to consumers directing their own healthcare.

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