No vaccine or treatment for severe acute respiratory syndrome has yet appeared, and government money has just begun to flow to SARS research. Yet biotech companies have already cashed in on SARS fears, thanks to investors who scrambled to place their bets on the winners in the race against the new global scourge.

At biotech after biotech, the story was the same: a press release claiming connection to the search for a cure for SARS brought a nice bump-up in the stock price and a hefty increase in trading activity, no matter how small or struggling the source.

RIDING THE WAVE On April 24, Genomed of St. Louis was selling for a penny a share in off-exchange trading. Then came the first of a flurry of SARS-related press releases, and the company's posted selling price quadrupled, to 4 cents per share. The most recent Securities and Exchange Commission documents reflect...

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