By Brady Huggett

Third-quarter earnings and sales figures are beginning to filter out and Genentech Inc. helped get the biotechnology sector off to a good start.

Genentech reported $448.7 million in product sales for the third quarter, an increase of 34 percent over the same period in 2000. Rituxan sales for the period increased 80 percent to $212.8 million, up from $117.9 million in the third quarter of 2000. The company said the Rituxan increase is due mostly to increased market penetration for the treatment of non-Hodgkin¿s lymphoma. Rituxan is partnered with IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp., of San Diego. IDEC said it now estimates its third-quarter earnings per share to be 16 cents on a diluted basis, beating consensus estimates by 1 cent.

Genentech¿s Herceptin generated $83.9 million in sales in the quarter, up 16 percent from $72.6 million in 2000¿s third quarter. Growth hormone sales increased 11 percent to $67.7 million, up from $61.1 million. Pulmozyme Inhalation Solution sales increased 9 percent to $32.8 million in the third quarter, up from $30 million for the same period in 2000.

The bad news, however slight, is that Genentech¿s three cardiovascular products, Activase, TNKase and Cathflo Activase, decreased in sales by 4 percent to $48.6 million, down from $50.7 million for the same period in 2000.

The South San Francisco-based company posted earnings of 20 cents per share over the quarter, a 25 percent increase over earnings of 16 cents per share for the third quarter of 2000. The net income for the quarter was $105.4 million, an increase of 22 percent over the earnings for the third quarter of 2000. Per-share earnings and net income are exclusive of the ongoing impact of the 1999 redemption of Genentech¿s special common stock and related accounting treatment.

The earnings per share were 1 cent above consensus estimates. Elise Wang, with Salomon Smith Barney in New York, increased her Rituxan sales estimates for fiscal 2001 to $805 million from $782 million and bumped her earnings-per-share estimate to 76 cents, up from 75 cents per share, based on Genentech¿s disclosure.

Genentech¿s stock (NYSE:DNA) jumped $3.50 Thursday, or about 8.6 percent, to close at $44.30. IDEC¿s stock (NASDAQ:IDPH) gained $2.90, to close at $52.97.

In others earnings news:

¿ ILEX Oncology Inc., of San Antonio, said global sales of Campath totaled $11.2 million in the third quarter. The product was launched May 30 and has since generated $16.5 million in sales. The product was developed by Millennium & ILEX Partners ¿ an evenly split joint venture of Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and ILEX ¿ and Schering AG, of Berlin. Schering has worldwide sales and marketing rights, except in Japan and East Asia, and its U.S. arm, Berlex Laboratories Inc., markets the product in the United States. ILEX¿s stock (NASDAQ:ILXO) climbed $1.76 Thursday to close at $29.06.

¿ QLT Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia, said global sales of Visudyne reached C$88.9 million (US$57.5 million) for the quarter ended Sept. 30, representing an 86 percent increase over the same period in 2000 and a 2 percent increase over second-quarter sales figures. The company has sold C$249.1 million worth of Visudyne for the year to date. QLT¿s stock (NASDAQ:QLTI) rose $1.41, or 8.5 percent Thursday, to close at $18.09.