ICN, Eastman Kodak Plan Joint Venture

April 25, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it will announce today a multiyear, $45-million joint venture with Eastman Kodak to test and develop second-generation drugs to combat an array of viral infections.

Researchers in the program also plan to study new biomedical compounds aimed at slowing the aging process by combating viral diseases related to old age, said ICN Chairman and Chief Executive Milan Panic. But an ICN spokesman cautioned that the work will not focus on producing "the fountain of youth."

ICN, a Costa Mesa prescription drug manufacturer, has been courted by Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak for years because the film giant is also a major chemical company and is eager to enter the health-care field in a big way.

Dr. L. J. Thomas, Kodak's senior vice president and director of research, said Kodak expects to build on ICN's research and eventually to produce anti-viral drugs "with practical applications."

The first Kodak cash came in June, 1984, when the company paid $8.4 million for 5% of ICN's common stock and 10% of Virateck Inc., an ICN subsidiary. But under an agreement, Kodak cannot purchase more than 20% of ICN over the next nine years unless ICN agrees to sell, Panic said. "We're not interested in selling," he added.

Meanwhile, Kodak--which has an annual research budget of nearly $1 billion--will be pumping even more money into ICN because of the new project.

Eugene Melnitchenko, vice president of the Dallas brokerage firm Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, said ICN will gain "scientific credibility" with the joint research pact.

The agreement calls for ICN and Kodak to re-establish the Nucleic Acid Research Institute, which ICN closed nearly a decade ago in a cost-cutting move. Dr. Weldon B. Jolley, former professor of surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center, has been named president of the institute, which will be located at ICN's Costa Mesa headquarters.

Despite the earlier closing of its research institute, ICN has continued researching anti-viral drugs on its own and is about to begin marketing a new drug that company officials expect to boost ICN's already impressive sales and earnings growth.

The new drug, called Virazole, is believed to be just weeks away from final approval by the U.S Food and Drug Administration for use in treatment of a rare infant respiratory disease, analyst Melnitchenko said.

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