BioMarin CEO Quiet on Forecast

The company has signed a drug development deal with Swiss biotech company Serono.
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The new chief executive of

BioMarin Pharmaceutical

(BMRN) - Get Report

said Monday he will need several weeks to study the company's operations before he can issue financial guidance for the year.

Jean-Jacques Bienaime,

who was hired last week, made his comments during a telephone conference call with analysts and investors. The consensus of analysts polled by Thomson First Call expects a full-year loss of $1.24 a share. The recently released first-quarter loss of 35 cents matched the consensus estimate.

Company executives told analysts they wouldn't answer questions about the upcoming annual meeting or

criticism from dissident shareholders who have nominated three candidates to serve on the BioMarin board. A company spokesman said the annual meeting probably would be held in late June, adding that BioMarin won't discuss the matter until it issues its final proxy.

The dissident shareholders are led by OrbiMed Advisors, which holds 8.2% of BioMarin's stock and is the second-largest shareholder. Both OrbiMed and BioMarin filed preliminary proxies earlier this month. BioMarin has nominated a full slate of seven directors for the board. OrbiMed, an investment and management advisory firm that specializes in health care, has complained about BioMarin's past performance and strategy.

Most of Monday's discussion with analysts centered on the just-announced drug development deal with the large Swiss biotech company




BioMarin, of Novato, Calif., said the companies would collaborate on developing two experimental drugs to treat phenylketonuria, a rare enzyme deficiency that can lead to neurological damage.

The agreement gives Serono the excluive rights to market these drugs, Phenoptin and Phenylase, in all countries except the U.S. and Japan. In return, Serono will pay BioMarin $25 million upfront and make additional payments of as much as $232 million depending on BioMarin's meeting certain research and development goals. Serono also will pay BioMarin based on sales of commercialized products.

The companies will share all development costs following successful completion of phase II clinical trials for each compound for each disease. There are three clinical trial phases before a company submits a drug for consideration by health regulators.

BioMarin is now conducting phase III tests of Phenoptin for phenylketonuria. The company says this compound "may also be useful" in treating other ailments, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Phenylase is in preclinical testing.

BioMarin now sells two products -- Aldurazyme for a rare, inherited and often fatal disease called MPS I and Orapred, for children suffering from respiratory inflammation caused by asthma. It collaborates with



in selling Aldurazyme. Serono's best-selling product is Rebif for multiple sclerosis.

BioMarin officials also said Monday that the company would be ready to begin marketing within 30 days a drug for a rare enzyme disorder once the Food and Drug Administration grants approval. The FDA's action date is May 31 for rhASB, a treatment for Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, which causes heart damage and usually leads to death before age 40.

BioMarin's stock was off 7 cents, or 1%, to $6.95.