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On its website, Burnham boasts these accomplishments by its scientists: (1) the laboratory technique that forms the basis for the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test for prostate cancer, (2) the enabling technology for the cancer drug Epogen, and (3) one of the first vitamin-based drugs for cancer, Targretin.

Nancy J. Beddingfield, director of institute relations for Burnham, says that Epogen, controlled by Thousand Oaks biotech Amgen, provides no royalty stream to Burnham.

Targretin throws off a modest royalty. It is controlled by a San Diego biotech, Ligand Pharmaceuticals, which is truly a Burnham spin-off. Ligand has two Targretin products that serve small niche markets. The company has lost money for 11 straight years, and last year was its worst. Its cumulative deficit is $973.3 million. It has restated its earnings for 2002, 2003, and most of 2004 and just announced it will pay $12.2 million to settle related lawsuits. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the earnings problems. Ligand admits it has faulty internal financial controls. Last week, David Robinson, chief executive since 1991, resigned under pressure from unhappy institutional shareholders.

Another Burnham spin-off was Telios Pharmaceuticals, which went into bankruptcy in the middle 1990s and was later purchased. A third spin-off is NeuroMolecular Pharmaceuticals, which is privately held and based in Emeryville.

In filching our clusters, Florida will suffer expensive disappointments.

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