Genetics Institute Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., has obtained aEuropean patent for the recombinant production oferythropoietin (EPO).

The announcement, made Thursday, "has a positivepsychological impact," said Cowen & Co. analyst David Stone. "Itis clear the stock market has figured out that patents areimportant," he said. GI's stock (NASDAQ: GENI) closed at $31.25per share, up $2.

GI stock has tumbled since March, when it lost its U.S. EPOpatent in a dispute with Amgen Inc. Amgen of Thousand Oaks,Calif., also received a European patent last July coveringrecombinant production of EPO, which is used to treat anemiathat results from kidney dialysis.

Bruce Eisen, GI's chief patent counsel, said that Amgen's patent"discloses a gene sequence which is incomplete and different incertain aspects as compared to the sequence of the GI patent.We believe our patent covers the actual commercial processutilized by (Amgen's) licensee."

EPO is sold in Europe by two major pharmaceutical companies:GI licensee Boehringer Mannheim GmBh and Cilag, a Johnson &Johnson subsidiary that licensed EPO from Amgen.

Amgen spokeswoman Kimberly Dorsey said the companywould not comment on any patent issues.

GI spokeswoman Clare Midgley would not elaborate on thedifferences between the patents. She said GI believes its patentposition is strong enough for Boehringer to continue sales inEurope. Midgley said GI has other EPO patents pending inEurope, including one for purified EPO.

Analyst Stone said that once a patent is granted in Europe, it isstill subject to an objection and examination period. Hespeculated that the two companies might be willing to cross-license the patents.

GI estimates the 1991 European EPO market at $200 million to$300 million, of which Boehringer has a 20 percent to 25percent share, said Midgley. Cilag began European sales in1988. Boehringer sales began in 1990.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.