The world's bellwether technology index turned resolutely away from networking in its latest reincarnation Monday, putting itself instead in the hands of a technology that is by comparison mature: biotechnology.

Each December the

Nasdaq 100

is reranked, and the changes take effect this year on Dec. 24. The event holds significance, because some $30 billion is indexed against it. There are 30 mutual funds linked to the Nasdaq 100, and shares of each company in the index are included in the Nasdaq 100 tracking stock, the

QQQ

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.

Eight of the 13 index additions this year are related to health care, six of them biotech firms. "This is a significant event, something everyone should watch over the next week to 10 days," said John Jacobs, chief executive of Nasdaq Financial Products, of the rerankings. "The drop of telecom stocks shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, nor should the addition of biotech names, which reflects the general strength of that sector."

Misspent Youth

Techs being removed from the index include former B2B highfliers

Ariba

( ARBA) and

BroadVision

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, as well as onetime PDA darlings

Palm

( PALM) and

3Com

( COMS) and telecom services provider

Level 3 Communications

(LVLT)

Internet stocks

CMGI

( CMGI),

CNET Networks

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,

Inktomi

(INKT)

and

RealNetworks

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will be subtracted from the index.

Novell

( NOVL),

Parametric

(PMTC)

and

McLeod

( MCLD) will get the boot, too.

"The story in growth investing is that technology companies have unsustainable business models," said John McCamant, editor of the

Medical Technology Stock Letter.

"But when focused on drugs, they are sustainable."

Deep Pockets

Among McCamant's favorites in the group of biotechs being added are

ImClone Systems

(IMCL)

, which is developing treatments for cancer patients, and

ICOS

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( ICOS).

Both companies are currently involved in deals with Big Pharma --

Bristol-Myers

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agreed to pay $1 billion to ImClone in three stages for the development of its colon cancer drug. The deal gives Bristol Myers the exclusive right to sell the drug, but it will give ImClone 60% of the profits, net of certain costs.

Separately,

Eli Lilly

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has collaborated with ICOS to market the firm's anti-impotence drug Cialis, which is still waiting FDA approval. According to McMamant, the drug will eclipse Viagra's sales of $1.3 billion.

According to a recent report from Ernst & Young, biotech companies are "in the best financial shape of their 25-year history, with strong capital reserves and significant investment in research and development."

The report said the $33 billion raised by biotechnology companies last year eclipsed the amount invested in the previous five years combined, noting that the market cap for 339 publicly traded biotechs, as calculated at the end of June 2001, declined only a modest 6% to $330.8 billion, from its record level of $353.5 billion in 2000.

In trading today, the Nasdaq 100 rose 2.2%. So far this year, it is off 30%, while the

Nasdaq Composite is lower by 19.6%.

Not-as-Fast Company

The ranking change gives the new members more visibility and broader ownership, which is key. "The fact that there are more funds picking up these stocks may help to buffer the volatility," said McCamant. Trading in these stocks can be very volatile, as a lot of short-sellers bet heavily on whether or not biotech products will make it to market.

"Working with the FDA is a nightmare. But once a drug is approved, people can't go and make it their garages," said McCamant. "The barriers of entry limit the number of competitors in the field."

"What gets us excited is these stocks can double again and again, if products make it to market," said McCamant. "I wouldn't expect any of these names to drop out very quickly."

The remainder of the biotechs being added are

Cephalon

( CEPH),

Protein Design Labs

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,

Sepracor

( SEPR) and

Invitrogen

( IVGN).

Medical device manufacturer

Cytyc

( CYTC) and pharmacy benefit manager

Express Scripts

(ESRX)

are also joining.

Charter Communications

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,

CDW Computer

( CDWC) and

Integrated Device Technology

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will be added as well.

The Nasdaq 100 is composed of the 100 largest nonfinancial Nasdaq stocks, with the rankings based on market caps. Two companies,

Symantec

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and

Synopsys

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, are actually rejoining the index this year.