Fujifilm cautious on Avigan profitability, eyes Ebola spread

By Reuters

Oct 30, 2014 07:16 AM EDT

Japan's Fujifilm Holdings Corp said it was difficult to estimate the profitability of its influenza drug Avigan, which has been earmarked to fight Ebola, given the uncertainty over the spread of virus, a company executive said on Thursday.

Fujifilm has said it is expanding the production Avigan anti-influenza. France and Guinea plan to conduct clinical trials of Avigan 200 mg tablets, made by Fujifilm group company Toyama Chemical Co, in Guinea to treat Ebola in mid-November.

"We are still in a phase to conduct clinical trials of Avigan as a treatment for Ebola, and since there is uncertainty on how far the disease will spread, it's difficult to estimate its profitability at this point," Fujifilm's executive director Kenji Sukeno told a news conference in Tokyo after the company released its results for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.  

Fujifilm had said its stockpile for Avigan would be sufficient to treat 20,000 patients and reiterated on Thursday that it should have enough ingredients to make tablets for 300,000 people.

Fujifilm's share price has surged 16 percent over the past two months and it hit a six-year high of 3,800 yen on Oct. 7.

The company said on Thursday that it would raise its stake in tissue engineering company Japan Tissue Engineering Co. to 50.33 percent from 45.47 percent to make it its consolidated subsidiary.

Fujifilm, once among the world's biggest makers of photography film, has been expanding its bio pharmaceutical business through a series of mergers and acquisitions. In 2008, it bought Toyama Chemical Co., whose influenza drug Avigan has been drafted to the fight against Ebola.

To underscore the company's thirst for acquisitions to revamp its presence in the biochemical area, it said on Monday that it would buy 49 percent of U.S. Kalon Biotherapeutics LLC, which has expertise in making vaccines used against pandemic influenza, Ebola and other public-health threats.

Fujifilm, whose products range from film and digital cameras to cosmetics, drugs and such medical devices as endoscopes, reported sales of 1.182 trillion yen for the first half ended September, up 0.7 percent from the previous year. Its operating profit rose 25 percent on the year to 71.6 billion yen helped by strong sales of disposable cameras.

Its pharmaceutical business still contributes a small portion to its group sales. While the company does not release individual business figures, its healthcare segment, which includes cosmetics and drugs, accounted for about 15 percent of the group sales.

The company said it would announce a mid-term business plan on Nov. 11.

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