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It's Crunch Time for Companies With Products in the Pipeline

"Our revised product strategy is to focus on the pediatric use," said James F. Young, MedImmune's president of research and development. "Our goal is not to just prove that it's as good, but that it's better. We want it to be the preferred product for children."

At Digene Corp., executives will spend this year responding to what they have called slower-than-expected growth of its HPV DNA test, its main product and the only approved test for a virus related to cervical cancer. The Gaithersburg company lowered revenue estimates for this fiscal year from a range of $125 million to $130 million to a range of $115 million to $120 million, acknowledging that it needed to increase awareness and use of the test.

MedImmune hopes to sell an improved version of its nasal-spray flu vaccine. (Jim Graham For The Washington Post)

Biotech Challenges 2005 could be a key year for a number of Washington area biotechnology companies.
_____Outlook 2005_____
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_____Special Report_____
Metro Business: Coverage of Washington area businesses and the local economy.
_____Biotech Headlines_____
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The move comes as industry giant Roche Diagnostics prepares to launch a competing test in 2006. "Digene needs to develop the market as quickly as it can to take advantage of their first mover position," said Jayson Bedford, an analyst with Adams Harkness. "This is an important year for this company and this product."

Digene chief executive Evan Jones said competitors aren't ready to take on his company. "Although they continue to work to enter the market they are not as close as people thought they would be at this point," he said.

There were no initial public offerings from Maryland biotech companies last year, but MetaMorphix Inc. of Beltsville in recent months has emphasized that it is developing the ability to go public.

MetaMorphix uses genetic information to help ranchers determine which cattle will produce the most tender (and priciest) meat. A rancher places a drop of blood on a sampling card and sends it away for analysis.

MetaMorphix officials said they couldn't discuss the possibility of an IPO. But in September the company hired a new chief financial officer, Thomas P. Russo, and noted in a news release that he has experience guiding companies through IPOs.

Edwin C. Quattlebaum, the company's chief executive, added in the announcement that Russo understands the needs of a "private company transitioning to a public reporting entity."

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