Biotechnology stocks were the top performers of a hot firstquarter. Medical/biotech stocks led the general stock marketrally, gaining 57 percent as a group, compared with a 14percent rise for the S&P 500. And 59 of the 63 pharmaceuticalsector stocks tracked by BioWorld rose.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) didn't make it into the top 10stocks in terms of percentage change, but it remains the biggeststory of the quarter. The stock rose $70, finishing the quarterat $132.50, after gaining Food and Drug Administrationmarketing approval for its granulocyte colony stimulatingfactor (GM-CSF) and winning its court battle with GeneticsInstitute over patents for erythropoietin (EPO).

Other stocks that rose on good news included Epitope Inc. andCetus Corp. Epitope (AMEX:EPT) gained 136 percent to finishthe quarter at $23. The company won FDA approval for itsEPIblot HIV-1 Western blot confirmatory test.

Cetus (NASDAQ:CTUS) stock rose 116 percent, closing thequarter at $15.63. The company won a major court battle withDu Pont over patents for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)technology. The company spent the second half of last year inthe doldrums after an FDA advisory committee failed torecommend approval of its interleukin-2.

Lower-priced stocks also did well, dominating the top 15 interms of percentage change. However, "if you're starting out asa $2 or $3 stock, it's easier to double than it is for a higher-priced stock," cautioned Denise Gilbert, a pharmaceuticalanalyst with County NatWest in San Francisco.

But with strong performances by second-tier stocks such asSynergen (up 106 percent), investors are taking a second lookat this group, said David Webber, an analyst with Alex. Brown& Sons in New York.

The Liposome Co. (NASDAQ:LIPO), the top gainer this quarter(up 250 percent), increased its credibility with investorsfollowing its November announcement that it licensed PfizerInc. to market its liposomal form of the cancer drugdoxorubicin, Webber said.

Genetics Institute (NASDAQ:GENI) was one of the few losers.The company took a one-time loss of $18.3 million following itssetback in the EPO case. The company filed on March 19 for arehearing of the decision.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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