Health indices saw a better trading day Tuesday as stocks rose on data and a bit of business strategizing. Barrier Therapeutics ( BTRX) rose 42 cents, or 12.4%, to $3.78 after announcing positive results from a safety, dose-escalation study of its oral antifungal drug, pramiconazole. The company used a 6-gram dose, 30 times higher than the single weekly dose that's currently being used in a phase IIa study in toenail fungus. Barrier said that no clinically relevant changes were seen in 32 volunteers dosed with up to 6 grams of the drug over a five-day period compared to placebo. Osiris Therapeutics ( OSIR) gave positive interim, one-year results of a 55-patient, phase I/II trial evaluating Chondrogen, a preparation of adult stem cells formulated to be injected into the knee. The company said the one-year data showed improvement in joint condition and that patients with osteoarthritis who were treated with Chrondrogen saw clinically and statistically significant improvement in pain compared with those treated with hyaluronic acid, the control. Shares rose $1.53, or 15%, to $11.77. After announcing Monday that it terminated its MAXY alpha (a treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C) development with partner Roche, Maxygen ( MAXY) said Tuesday that it will consolidate all of its operations in its U.S. headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., adding 25 employees. The company will cease operations of Maxygen ApS, its subsidiary in Denmark, where it employs a primarily scientific staff in preclinical research. The company said it expects to garner $10 million in annual cost savings from the move starting in 2008. Shares edged up 17 cents, or 2.4%, to $7.29.
Meanwhile, Merck ( MRK) will build a $297 million facility in Ireland to develop and manufacture vaccines, according to a Reuters report. Its shares were trading up $1.69, or 2.9%, at $59.27. Elsewhere, BMO Capital downgraded Axcan Pharma ( AXCA) to underperform from market perform based on upcoming generic-drug competition. Shares edged down 55 cents, or 3.1%, to $17.37. In other health stocks, Tenet Healthcare ( THC) and UnitedHealthcare, a business of UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) announced a two-year agreement in which UnitedHealthcare members will have access to all acute care hospitals in Tenet's portfolio. The companies didn't disclose financial terms. Tenet's shares rose 42 cents, or 10.5%, to $4.42, while UnitedHealth Group added $1, or 1.9%, to $54.38.