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InVitro International’s CEO Leaves Irvine Firm : Chemicals: He is second executive to leave recently. Company makes animal-test alternative.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

InVitro International, an Irvine company that makes a chemical testing product, said Monday that William J. Fisher, its president and chief executive officer, has left to pursue other business interests.

Fisher is the second high-level executive to leave the company recently. Laurie Hallwyler, vice president of marketing, announced her resignation earlier this month.

InVitro makes a product called Corrositex, which the company has marketed as an alternative to animal testing to determine how corrosive various chemicals are to the skin.

“In theory, it’s a replacement for the old poke-the-rabbit-in-the-eye test, so it has sentimental support as well as market potential,” said David Anast, publisher of Biomedical Market Newsletter in Costa Mesa.

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Despite that potential, the company has not prospered. Publicly traded since May, 1991, it has never posted a profit. And its stock, which was trading at $15 a share a year ago, has been dropping ever since, hitting a 52-week low of $1.63 last week. The stock closed Monday at $1.63 a share, down 38 cents, in Nasdaq trading.

The company insists that its future is bright, despite the lagging stock price, consecutive quarterly losses and management departures. Spokeswoman Kathy Savitt said Monday that Fisher’s leaving is not a sign of trouble. Rather, she said, “it is an opportunity to lead the company in its next phase of development.”

InVitro is changing its focus now from research to marketing and sales of Corrositex, she said, and is beginning to realize its potential. Westinghouse Electric Corp., for example, has agreed to purchase 500 Corrositex kits over the next 12 months, Savitt said, a deal that could represent $350,000 in sales.

The recent departure of marketing executive Hallwyler was unrelated to Fisher’s leaving, Savitt said.

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In addition to gaining support among animal-rights activists, InVitro in October won approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to ship its product. Anast said Corrositex is the only such substance approved by the government for corrosive-chemical testing.

Anast said there is clearly market potential for a product like Corrositex. He cited “the growing quantity of products on the market that require tests,” plus increasing regulatory concern about the safety of consumer products.


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