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Top Chemist Hired for AIDS Research Effort at Viratek

August 13, 1986|JAMES S. GRANELLI | Times Staff Writer

A longtime Eastman Kodak Co. chemist has been hired to head Viratek Inc., a Costa Mesa-based pharmaceutical company that has been testing a drug for use in the fight against acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other viral and cancer-related diseases.

Bryant W. Rossiter, 55, of Rochester, N.Y., who was named president and chief operating officer of Viratek Inc. on Tuesday, replaces Robert Smith.

Smith, who has been president of Viratek since its start in 1980, is devoting his efforts to research at the Nucleic Acid Research Institute, a joint venture of Kodak and Viratek's parent company, ICN Pharmaceuticals. NARI was formed 16 months ago to develop antiviral and anti-cancer agents and to investigate the aging process.

Rossiter was also appointed vice president of ICN, which owns 44% of Viratek. Both appointments were effective Monday.

Rossiter, who had been with Kodak since 1970, retired as director of its science andtechnology development unit to take the Viratek post.

"Rossiter is a world-known scientist, one of the top people in his field," said Eugene Melnitchenko, an industry analyst with the Dallas brokerage house of Rauscher Pierce Refsnes Inc. "He certainly is qualified for the job."

Rossiter, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has served on at least five national and international organizations, including the scientific advisory committees for both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Council on Chemical Research.

The appointment had been rumored for some time, Melnitchenko said, and provides "another reflection" of the joint efforts the companies have made to "make sure this thing succeeds."

That "thing" is the effort to develop drugs to treat AIDS and other diseases. Viratek's primary experimental drug is Virazole, its brand name for the generic drug ribavirin. The drug is one of three being tested this summer by the U.S. Public Health Service for use against AIDS.

Kodak, which has been diversifying in recent years into the life sciences industry, has purchased parts of companies and granted research funds. The film manufacturing and processing giant has been particularly active in the pharmaceutical industry, Melnitchenko said.

Besides owning 5% of ICN and 10% of Viratek, Kodak has pumped $9.5 million in research funds into ICN for research and testing of Virazole and other drugs, is contributing $45 million over six years to the NARI joint venture and is sending some of its scientists to work at NARI.

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