Providence Health System has announced a November 12 grand opening for its Providence Holy Cross Health Center. The center was originally scheduled to open last summer, but heavy rain and materials shortages combined with other factors to delay the project’s completion. The center is part of the three-story 80,000 square-foot Santa Clarita Valley Medical Plaza, which is a collaboration between Providence, Facey Medical Group and other partners. The $40 million medical center includes an outpatient cancer center, surgery center, state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging services and a laboratory draw station. It also includes an urgent care center, physical laboratory, a pharmacy and several physician offices for specialists and primary care physicians. Providence Holy Cross has found itself squeezed between the twin pressures of the growing population in the Santa Clarita Valley and the closing of a number of San Fernando Valley Hospitals. The hospital regularly runs at more than 90 percent of its capacity, and the new medical center is part of its attempts to alleviate demands on its Mission Hills hospital, which is also in the process of expanding its emergency room and planning to start building a new patient care building in the summer of 2007. The medical plaza is located at 26357 McBean Parkway in Santa Clarita. The grand opening is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 12. Insulin Competition The leading companies in the race to develop an inhaled insulin device, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis and NektarTherapeutics made headlines after the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted to recommend that the FDA approve the pre-marketing application for Exubera. Although the committee recommendations are not binding, it’s would be surprising for the FDA to not approve Exubera soon. Although this product will likely be the first on the market and will probably generate billions of dollars for the companies, the inhaled insulin market is far from cornered. Industry experts are paying a lot of attention to Eli Lilly and Alkermes, as well as Valencia-based MannKind. These companies aren’t as far along in their development of inhaled insulin devices, but these upcoming devices are considered by many to be technically superior to Exubera. MannKind is still far behind its competitors, and has had problems raising the cash necessary for further development. The company raised $87.5 million in an initial public offering in September of 2004, but its stock price has fallen from $25 to under $10 since then. Before going public, the company spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its Technosphere system. Last August MannKind’s founder Alfred Mann agreed to contribute another $87.5 million to the company, half of a $175 million private placement the company struck with institutional investors, which may be enough for the company to finish its phase III trials. Although the company is more than two years behind Exubera, the inhaled insulin market could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars once cracked, making the next few months very important for MannKind. Breaking Into China An announcement in September that North American Scientific had won clearance to sell one of its systems in China sent the company’s stock through the roof and helped make up for some poor performance over the last year. During the week of September 19, the company’s shares were trading about $3.0, more than 70 percent higher than its value the Monday of that week. Since then, prices have come back to earth, but are still sustaining some of that value, trading around $2.50 as of last week. Chinese regulators approved the sale of the Peacock cancer tomotherapy system, which uses a medical scanner and radiation to treat tumors that are difficult to reach. The company was allowed to start selling the equipment immediately through a network of distributors, and is expecting its first sales by the end of this month. North American Scientific makes other radiation devices, including something called brachytherapy seeds, small capsules with radioactive material surgically inserted near tumors. The company is hoping that it can sell its full product set throughout China in the coming year. Health Net Settles Suit Health Net Inc. and Prudential Financial Services will pay about $167 million to settle a class action suit with about 950,000 doctors across the country. Doctors have brought a suit to 10 of the nation’s largest HMOs, and a U.S. District Court Judge has approved four settlements. Under this agreement, Health Net will pay $40 million to active and retired doctors and $80 million to improve the processing of doctors’ bill submissions. It will also pay $20 million in doctors’ attorney fees. Prudential will pay about $27.5 million to improve managed care and settle attorney fees. IRIS Lands Iris International announced a third purchasing agreement to sell urine analyzers to the Department of Veteran Affairs, sending its stock price to a 52-week high last week. Early on Tuesday Oct. 4, shares trading on the Nasdaq hit a high of $20.85, up from a low of $7.25 last October. The deal announced is a five-year purchasing agreement with the Veterans Integrated Services Network’s VISN 16 region, which covers locations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Florida and parts of Texas. The order includes a total of 23 analyzers. The company has previously sold machines to VISNs to cover the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. Staff Reporter Jonathan Colburn can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.