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Blade Wonder Stock Contest: 2 entrants lead contest with biopharmaceutical

A biopharmaceutical company's pending federal approval for a heart medication expected to replace nitroglycerin has propelled two local residents into the lead of The Blade's Wonder Stock contest.

Inez O'Grady of Sylvania and Robert Darmofal of Toledo both chose Scios, Inc., (Nasdaq: SCIO), and are well ahead of the next contender going into the contest's final month. Both consider themselves fortunate for including Scios in their own portfolios, too, they said.

“We've been watching it. It's had its ups and downs for a while,” Mrs. O'Grady said of herself and her husband, Dr. Thomas O'Grady.

Said Mr. Darmofal, a retired plant engineer: “It's a stock not for the faint of heart.”

After guessing which single stock will have the most growth between June 30 and year's end, 540 participants are vying for $500 first-place and $250 second-place prizes in The Blade Wonder Stock contest. Ties will be broken by the closest-to-correct forecast of the year-end Nasdaq composite index and, if necessary, the Dow Jones industrial average.

Scios' stock has gained more than 244 per cent since June 30, closing out November at $19.63 a share. Stock in fellow biopharmaceutical company Immunogen, Inc., (Nasdaq: IMGN), selected by former leader Joanne Rubin of Sylvania, had the next highest growth at 108 per cent.

Investors are pulling away from technology stocks as the economy slows and the “e-problem” - a combination of the economy, the election, lower earnings, and energy - plagues the stock market, said Robb Thomas, second vice president of the Toledo office of Salomon Smith Barney, the contest's co-sponsor.

“Biotechnology and health care really is the place where people are looking,” he said. “Certainly this does give some hope for the market.”

Mrs. O'Grady said Scios' heart medication, which is expected to get Food and Drug Administration approval soon, has made the company attractive to investors.

“It has the potential for millions of dollars of sales per year,” she said. “Even this price right now is low for this stock.”

Stock in Omnicare, Inc. (NYSE: OCR), a company chosen by Patrick Winters of Oak Harbor that provides pharmacy services to nursing homes and other institutions, had the third highest growth through November at 80 per cent. It was followed by computer chip and software maker Emulex Corp. (Nasdaq: ELM), chosen by Norman Nowicki of Toledo, which grew 77 per cent.

Rounding out the contest's top 10 leaders were Debbie Grayson of Fremont, who chose Pharmaceutical Product Development (Nasdaq: PPDI), which was up 74 per cent; Pam Albecht of Toledo and Bill Bailey of Lambertville, Handspring, Inc. (Nasdaq: HAND), 72 per cent; Jeff Alotta of Sylvania, Boeing, Inc. (NYSE: BA), 65 per cent; and Russ Hicks of Toledo, Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC), 64 per cent.

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