Molecular Biosystems laid off 48 employees and discontinued somedevelopment programs to reduce expenses by $6 million a year andfocus all its resources on the company's lead products, ultrasoundcontrast imaging agents.

Stephen Keane, spokesman for the San Diego-based company, saidmost of the work force reductions are related to elimination ofresearch and development efforts in non-ultrasound imagingproducts. The layoffs reduce the number of employees by 24 percentfrom 197 to 149.

Molecular Biosystems (NYSE:MB) lost $2.12 Wednesday, closing at$7, a 23 percent drop.

The staff and program cutbacks are expected to reduce thecompany's burn rate to $1.5 million a month. Keane said MolecularBiosystems has $22 million in cash and will receive another $10million this year from corporate partnership agreements.

The company's lead product, Albunex, is marketed in the U.S. andJapan for diagnosing heart disease. The contrast imaging agent alsois in Phase III studies for other indications.

Albunex consists of air-filled albumin microspheres. They areinjected into a vein and are used in ultrasound imaging of the heart toenhance identification of endocardial borders and to assess bloodflow in the cardiac chambers.

Molecular Biosystems has agreements with Mallinckrodt Group Inc.,of St. Louis, for marketing Albunex in the U.S. and with Shionogi &Co. for sales in Japan. Norway-based Hafslund Nycomed AS hasmarketing rights in Europe.

Keane said Molecular Biosystems has four non-ultrasound imaging agents in development and will seek corporatepartners to continue their development.

Molecular Biosystems has two other ultrasound imaging agents indevelopment. Oralex is being tested in Phase I trials for thegastrointestinal tract and surrounding organs and the company hasapplied to begin clinical studies of FSO69 as a myocardial perfusionagent. n

-- Charles Craig

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