Altair in arbitration over payment for a licensing deal

Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. says it's not getting paid in a deal to license its technology to battle kidney disease.

The Reno-based company said it's in arbitration with Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc. over 100,000 shares of Spectrum's common stock that Altair claims it is owed.

At last week's prices, the stock would be worth about $525,000.

In early 2005, Altair announced a deal to license its RenaZorb product line to Spectrum. Altair's researchers think the product can help control phosphate in kidney patients.

Spectrum, based at Irvine, Calif., conducted successful animal trials on the product last year, said Alan Gotcher, Altair's president and chief executive officer. But it didn't make the 100,000-share progress payment specified in the companies' contract.

Dr. Rajesh C. Shrotriya, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum, acknowledged that the dispute is in arbitration.

"We do not believe the testing has been completed," he said in a telephone interview last week.

Altair can survive for a good while no matter what the outcome of its dispute with Spectrum.

With cash reserves of about $23 million at the start of this year, Altair is burning cash at the rate of about $942,000 a month, said Chief Financial Officer Edward Dickinson.

That's up sharply from the $556,000 a month it was burning in the first three quarters of 2005. Dickinson said the company ramped up its spending on product development and hired new personnel as it focuses on getting products to market faster.

In recent days, Altair inked deals with Boshart Engineering of Ontario, Calif., to develop an electric vehicle powered by Altair's battery technology, with Electro Energy Inc. of Danbury, Conn., to develop high-power lithium ion batteries and with Impro Inc. of Seoul to market Altair's battery technology in Korea.

Altair lost nearly $10 million in 2005 compared with a loss of about $7 million a year earlier. Revenues rose to $2.8 million from $1.15 million a year earlier.

Other than a $3 million note on its office and laboratory facility in Reno, the company has no debt.

Talking with investors after the company announced its financial results, Gotcher said Altair has contracted with the University of California, Santa Barbara, to study possible effects of nano-sized particles on humans and animals.

The issue, he noted, has been getting some attention from lawmakers.

"Let's focus our efforts on those areas where we can see high risk," Gotcher said.

He said Altair executives are "reasonably confident" that the company's materials don't threaten worker safety or the environment.

"But we need data," he added.


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