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Once again, our favorite sector is still the prettiest pig in the ugly pig contest. On a day when the market steadied up a bit, the pharma and biomed stocks also gained, extending a trend that has lasted most of the week. The S&P 500's health-care sector rose 1.9%.

This as the Wall Street Journal reports that investors are increasingly confident that the Obama administration's health-care reform plans will be scaled back, leaving ample room for health-management organizations and other companies in the existing system to reap health profits.

Leading the winners on Thursday was Pharmaxis Ltd. (PXSL) to $33.00 +4.05 (13.99%). The Australian specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the development of new products for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic respiratory and immune disorders presented additional results from a late-stage study on its cystic fibrosis treatment. Pharmaxis said its Bronchitol treatment showed "clinically meaningful" changes in patients' lung capacity - the primary endpoint of the study - and also that it could improve the conditions on those who already are on a common cystic fibrosis treatment.

Vascular Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:VASC) rose to $7.99 +0.97 (13.82%) after it announced that the company is set to join the broad-market Russell 3000 Index when Russell Investments reconstitutes its comprehensive set of U.S. and global equity indexes on June 26, 2009, according to a preliminary list of additions posted June 12, 2009. Russell's U.S. indexes consists of the largest U.S. stocks at the end of May, ranking them by total market capitalization. Membership in the Russell 3000, which remains in place for one year, means automatic inclusion in the small-market Russell 2000 Index as well as the appropriate growth and value style indexes. These indexes are widely used by investment managers and institutional investors for index funds and as benchmarks for both passive and active investment strategies.

Shares of Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ:NVAX) went to $2.63 +0.30 (12.88%) after the biotechnology company announced that Dr. Rahul Singhvi, President and Chief Executive Officer, will be presenting at the Phacilitate Vaccine Forum Barcelona 2009 conference on June 22 and June 23, 2009 at The Fira Palace, Barcelona, Spain. Dr. Singhvi is participating in the Panel Session 'How are VLP based vaccines helping to shape the manufacturing processes of the future?' and will also be speaking to the Case Study: Highlighting the clinical milestones to date: What progress is being made with respect to immune response in healthy adults? The company also benefitted from news that the H1N1 virus has mutated. See the BioMedReports.Com article about that. NVAX is listed as one of the companies with products that may help in efforts against the pandemic- in this case their proprietary virus-like particle (VLP) technology.

Immunogen shares ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN) gapped down to $7.10 -0.72 (-9.21%) after the company focused on the development of antibody-based anticancer therapeutics announced a public offering of 5 million shares. The offering will increase shares outstanding by nearly 10%. Net proceeds, after underwriting discounts and commissions and expenses, will be approximately $33 million.

Tiens Biotech Group, Inc. (NYSEMKT:TBV) dropped to $2.42 -0.20 (-7.63%). The Chinese company researches, develops, manufactures, and markets nutrition supplement products, including wellness products and dietary supplement products. Its volume is very low, but so is the float, so swings like this will occur on little or no news. Overall, investors feel that the company is headed in the right direction.

Merge Healthcare Inc. (NASDAQ:MRGE) simply gave back some of Wednesday's gains and closed at $3.90 -0.31 (-7.36%). Also, yesterday, the company tendered its offer to buy all outstanding shares of Etrials Worldwide in a $20 million deal. The companies first announced the definitive merger agreement earlier this month. Morrisville, N.C.-based Etrials had rejected a $10 million acquisition by Bio-Imaging Technologies prior to Merge’s offer. Under terms of the tender offering, Milwaukee-based Merge paid $1.81 for each of Etrials’ more than 11 million outstanding shares of stock.

Here is a look at some the rest of the healthcare sector's winners and losers for Thursday, Jun 18th, 2009 and as always, those biotech investors interested in seeing the complete database of clinical trials and upcoming FDA decisions can access that information here.

Gainers (% price change) Last Trade Change Mkt Cap
Pharmaxis Ltd. (ADR) PXSL 33.00 +4.05 (13.99%) 471.98M
Vascular Solutions, Inc. VASC 7.99 +0.97 (13.82%) 129.30M
Novavax, Inc. NVAX 2.63 +0.30 (12.88%) 227.54M
Metabolix, Inc. MBLX 7.35 +0.83 (12.73%) 168.93M
Human Genome Sciences HGSI 2.66 +0.29 (12.24%) 361.20M


Losers (% price change)
ImmunoGen, Inc. IMGN 7.10 -0.72 (-9.21%) 362.88M
Tiens Biotech Group (USA TBV 2.42 -0.20 (-7.63%) 172.63M
Merge Healthcare Inc. MRGE 3.90 -0.31 (-7.36%) 221.41M
Orthovita, Inc. VITA 4.97 -0.37 (-6.93%) 378.14M
Young Innovations, Inc. YDNT 19.62 -1.42 (-6.75%) 153.86M


Most Actives (dollar volume)
Pfizer Inc. PFE 14.92 +0.34 (2.33%) 100.68B
Abbott Laboratories ABT 47.66 +1.74 (3.79%) 73.66B
Johnson & Johnson JNJ 55.79 +0.59 (1.07%) 153.73B
Merck & Co., Inc. MRK 25.65 +0.88 (3.55%) 54.09B
Amgen, Inc. AMGN 53.03 +0.22 (0.42%) 53.69B
Source: Healthcare Stocks Continue to Rise