Sunday, May 11

TYSABRI NEWS - Pressure rises on Elan board from upset investors

BOSTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Some major investors in Irish drugmaker Elan Corp Plc are unhappy at the company's direction and want to see change at the top.
Elan's stock has fallen more than 80 percent over the past five months amid concern over the safety of its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri and disappointing results from a trial of its experimental Alzheimer's vaccine.

Elan says it is aware of the discontent, but does not believe it is justified. It is looking into ways to cut costs, and may close two locations. It also hopes to raise up to $500 million in cash within the next six to eight months by licensing the rights to some of its products.

Still, another big shareholder who declined to be named citing company policy, said more experience and oversight are needed at the board level, and he would like to see a shake-up.

Investors have seen Elan shares go into free fall before.

Now some investors want change, and even Armen, architect of Elan's previous turnaround, says dramatic action is needed if the company is to thrive.

Elan is not putting Tysabri on the block. It is Elan's most important product, with sales of $236 million in the third quarter and Wall Street views it will reach a $1 billion a year. Elan splits the profit on Tysabri with its partner, Biogen Idec Inc.

Elan's plan, instead, is to sell its drug technology unit, valued at about $1 billion. So far, it has not found a buyer.

"Elan remains committed to its focus as a neuroscience-based company," said spokeswoman Stutts.

One reason is the products. Many hopes still ride high on Tysabri. And if the Alzheimer's drug called bapineuzumab, which it is developing with Wyeth, does end up on the market, it could eventually be one of the most lucrative drugs in the world with sales that may top $13 billion.

"There is plenty of risk as to whether the stock can get there, but we are willing to accept the risk to achieve that number." (Reporting by Toni Clarke)
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