RAMAT GAN, Israel Agis, Israel¿s second-largest pharmaceutical company, purchased 5.2 percent of Pharmos Corp.¿s total shares for $3.5 million. The purchases were made in Wall Street trading, where Pharmos is valued at $65 million.

This purchase makes Agis the single largest shareholder in Pharmos. Bausch & Lomb Inc., Pharmos¿ marketing partner for the recently launched ophthalmic products Alrex and Lotemax, holds about 4 percent of Pharmos¿ shares, and Haim Aviv, Pharmos¿ CEO and founder, holds about 3 percent of the company¿s stocks.

¿We see Agis¿ share purchase as a positive step for Pharmos,¿ Aviv told BioWorld International. ¿Moshe Arkin, chairman and controlling shareholder of Agis, has an excellent reputation, and Agis is a company with considerable experience in the pharmaceutical business which would serve to benefit Pharmos greatly from its experience.¿

Pharmos is pinning its highest hopes at present on Dexanabinol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid derivative for treating head injury. The company¿s recently released results of Phase II clinical trials for this drug were positive, and the drug could command a billion-dollar market.

Strategic Match-Up Could Pay Off

Attaining this landmark may have prompted the Agis purchase, but Pharmos, of Alachua, Fla., also recently brought to market two drugs for treating eye diseases. The company began selling Lotemax and Alrex last May, under a marketing agreement with Bausch & Lomb, the optical products giant whose pharmaceutical division is in Tampa, Fla., with headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Until then, the company had no revenues. Last week, Pharmos published its third-quarter business results for 1998, showing revenues of $90,000 and losses of $1.2 million. During the first nine months of the year, the company had $1.3 million in revenues and a loss of $4.4 million.

Agis is a purely generic producer and distributor. The connection with Pharmos, which is a drug inventor, could be a highly strategic match not only from the financial point of view.