Thursday, November 25, 2004

Elan Greets Respite

by D.A. Jacome

After years of losses and litigational headaches, things might be beginning to turn around for Elan, the Irish biotechnology company.

On Wednesday, Elan (ELN) announced that the FDA had approved Tysabri, as treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis to reduce the frequency of clinical relapses. Research suggests TYSABRI works by preventing immune cells from migrating from the bloodstream into the brain where they can cause inflammation and potentially damage nerve fibers and their insulation. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that afflicts approximately 400,000 people in the United States and more than one million people worldwide. Symptoms include everything from vision impairment to paralysis.

According to Robert Brisbourne of Merrion Capital, Tysabri outperforms earlier drugs in slowing the relapse rate, cutting relapses by 66% after one year of treatment compared with 28% for its peers.

Elan, a consistent profit maker during the 1990s, has been reeling downhill ever since then, plagued by accounting charges, SEC investigations, and lawsuits. With the approval of Tysabri--now being tested for rhematoid arthritis and Crohn's Disease--Elan may soon be singing a more jovial tune throughout Wall Street. Analysts predict the market for MS drugs--$4.2 billion worldwide today--will hit $7 billion to $8 billion over the next few years. Elan should grab half the business. Keep your fingers crossed.

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