For San Diego Biomedical Firms with Stakes in Swine Flu, It’s Time for a Check-Up

4/20/10

As swine flu raced through colleges and communities last summer and fall, at least five San Diego companies with flu-related products or research programs saw their share prices surge. Investors were betting that swine flu, the predominant circulating flu virus in the U.S., presented a real opportunity for these companies.

Now comes the reckoning. The influenza season, which normally runs from October through May, is winding down. An update issued April 9 by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said influenza cases were declining or stable throughout the country, and the percentage of all doctors’ visits by patients with flu-like symptoms had fallen to 1.1 percent—well below the seasonal norm—from a high of 7.8 percent last October.

Last September, I looked at San Diego companies with stakes in swine flu. The time has come to see how they have actually performed since the World Health Organization declared a global H1N1 swine flu pandemic in June.

—I’ll begin with Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL). The diagnostic-test maker received special government clearance last summer to market its QuickVue rapid flu test for swine flu. The company told investors last summer it expected a revenue bump from sales of the tests.

And how. Quidel reported a 38 percent increase in 2009 net sales of infectious disease-related products. Total revenue jumped 28 percent for the year, driven by global sales of influenza products. Quidel’s shares are up about 12 percent since last June.

However, Quidel has already warned investors not to expect a repeat of its 2009 financial performance. “We do not plan for or expect the influenza pandemic of 2009 to recur in 2010. Accordingly, we expect a significant decrease in our influenza test sales, related earnings, and cash flows during 2010,” Quidel said in its annual filing with the SEC.

—Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) produces equipment that runs a diagnostic test, developed and distributed by the CDC, that can determine if patients are infected with the specific strain of the influenza A virus that causes swine flu.

The test has become the de facto standard in H1N1 detection, which makes Life’s equipment a must-have for public health labs. Life experienced an equipment-buying frenzy last spring, followed by an increase in sales of reagents to run the swine flu tests. The products contributed … Next Page »

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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