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Wednesday's Health Winners & Losers

Biotech news was thin, and health indices were flat midweek despite a halted clinical program and a few stock offerings and business deals. Immtech Pharmaceuticals' (IMM) stock took a beating Wednesday after the company announced the Food and Drug Administration put a clinical hold on its development program for pafuramidine, an experimental treatment in late-stage studies for Pneumocystis pneumonia and African sleeping sickness.

The company said preliminary findings from a safety study revealed abnormal laboratory values in several volunteers following treatment with the drug, and patients are now being closely monitored for liver values. Shares fell $2.90, or 49.6%, to $2.95.

Headed slightly in the other direction, Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST) said Wednesday that it would buy Illumigen Biosciences for $9 million in cash. Cubist expects to file an IND for Illumigen's lead candidate, a Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) treatment, in 2008. Ilumigen will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cubist, and Cubist will pay Illumigen up to $75.5 million during the development of the HCV treatment.

If Cubist develops Illumigen products for things other than HCV, the companies said development and regulatory milestone payments could amount to $117 million. And if any Illumigen product is commercialized, Cubist could pay an additional $140 million in milestone payments.

Cubist shares were trading down 48 cents, or 2.2%, at $21.77. The stock is a component of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was up 4.01, or 0.5%, at 863.99.
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