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Business Told AIDS Could Be Worth Billions

October 20, 1986|United Press International

NEW YORK — More than 100 investors and entrepreneurs met at a first-of-its-kind conference today to discuss profits and AIDS, the fatal disease that participants said could earn the business sector untold billions of dollars.

"There is a tremendous opportunity in the AIDS market of a magnitude beyond anything we have now," said Matthew Heil, a biotechnology consultant who spoke to business executives at the daylong conference.

"Look at vaccines, look at viral therapy," he said. "An effective drug would bring, I believe, $1.6 billion back to the maker. Even spread among several drugs, that is a substantial amount of money."

The somberly dressed executives took copious notes in a Manhattan hotel meeting room.

Practical Meeting

Conference organizers--two companies that specialize in holding seminars on business opportunities in various health fields--said the meeting was not exploitative, but practical.

"The very reason these drugs are being found is because of that dirty word 'profit,' " said Heil, a biologist and consultant for Medical Faculty Associates.

He said a vaccine against AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, as well as drugs to treat it, could earn investors millions of dollars. Using figures from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, he estimated that 5 million out of about 20 million gay men will not have been exposed to the AIDS virus by 1991 and probably would pay for an effective vaccination to avoid the sexually transmitted disease.

"Figure 5 million times $100 a vaccine and that's $500 million," Heil said. "If they need two injections you double that. If they need four, double it again.

"And we aren't even talking about the heterosexual population."

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