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Aurora Biosciences Reports Higher Q1 Revenues, Dips into Red

NEW YORK, May 3 – Two days after its acquisition by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Aurora Biosciences reported higher earnings for the first quarter of 2001, but drifted into the red during its last full quarter as an independent company. 

Aurora’s revenues jumped to $17.5 million, rising $2.2 million from the comparable quarter a year ago. The company attributed this change to new product sales from PanVera, a protein-manufacturer Aurora acquired in March 2001. Aurora has focused on designing and licensing screening assays for drug development.

However, the San Diego-based company also reported a net loss of $1.7 million, or 8 cents a share, for the first quarter of 2001, a figure that includes $1.2 million in charges related to the PanVera merger. In a profitable first quarter last year, the company earned a net income of $200,000.

Excluding the merger-related charges, Aurora's net loss totaled $500,000, or 2 cents per share. In a poll of four analysts conducted by Thomson Financial/First Call, Wall Street had predicted a net loss of 3 cents per share.

Although merger-related expenses contributed the lion’s share of Aurora’s expenses during the first quarter, total operating expenses also rose by 29 percent compared to the year-ago quarter.

The company’s R&D expenses almost doubled compared to the first quarter 2000, increasing from $3 to $5.8 million, and selling, general, and administrative expenses rose 43 percent to $5.7 million. A 34 percent increase in the number of full-time employees contributed to higher overall operating expenses, according to a company statement.

During the first quarter of the year, Aurora received revenue from research collaborations with Organon, Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Senomyx and from a licensing agreement with Greiner Bio-One, as well as several other existing collaborations.

For the full year, Aurora said it expects revenues of about $90 million, and second quarter 2001 revenues of $20 million.

As of March 31, the company reported $102 million in cash, cash equivalents, and investments. Vertex pharmaceuticals acquired the company for $592 million in stock.

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