AVANIR Pharmaceuticals Subsidiary Xenerex Biosciences Adds John Abrams, Ph.D. As Senior Director of Antibody Technology

SAN DIEGO, Mar 12, 2002 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- AVANIR Pharmaceuticals (Amex: AVN) today announced that John S. Abrams, Ph.D. has joined Xenerex Biosciences, AVANIR's antibody generation subsidiary. Dr. Abrams is the former Director of the Antibody Technology Division of the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, Schering-Plough Corporation's biotechnology center for immunology and molecular biology.

"We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Abrams to our scientific team at Xenerex," said J. David Hansen, President and Chief Operating Officer of Xenerex Biosciences. "Dr. Abrams brings a unique blend of scientific knowledge and hands-on experience directed toward discovering and developing antibody products. His expertise will significantly add to our capabilities in both generating antibodies as well as building the capabilities of the Company as we develop our own antibody product candidates."

Dr. Abrams attained international recognition directing antibody development in the areas of inflammation, asthma and allergy. He has over 20 years of experience working on early stage research and drug target validation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, most recently with the DNAX research division of Schering-Plough. While at DNAX, Dr. Abrams headed several human antibody development teams and also developed the original rodent anti-hIL-5 monoclonal antibody that is currently in clinical development at Schering-Plough. He has authored over 100 publications and has been awarded 13 U.S. Patents and PCT Publications.

"We believe it is very important that Xenerex operate at its fullest potential," said AVANIR President and Chief Executive Officer Gerald J. Yakatan, Ph.D. "Hiring a scientist of Dr. Abrams' caliber is indicative of AVANIR's commitment to Xenerex."

"The Xenerex platform has distinct features and benefits that distinguish it from all other methods used to generate human antibodies," said John S. Abrams, Ph.D. "I'm happy to be an integral part of the team in this relatively early phase of the Company's development."

Xenerex's novel, proprietary technology enables rapid generation of fully human antibodies of high affinity and specificity to virtually any infectious disease target or human protein. Since the Xenerex technology uses human immune system cells, the complete library of human genes necessary for generating antibodies of high affinity and specificity are present in the technology platform. Donor cells exploit the genetic diversity of the human population and their natural exposure history. Human immune system cells from individuals who have been previously exposed to an antigen can be used to generate antibodies with properties that are essentially identical to those found in the serum of the donor. Xenerex's internal demonstration projects, along with antibody generation efforts undertaken with partners, have proven that the technology can produce antibodies to soluble human proteins, membrane-bound human proteins and infectious disease targets.

Xenerex is currently working on development of human antibodies to eight target antigens provided by three research partners. Two of the partners, Eos Biotechnology and Peregrine Pharmaceuticals, have advanced to the second stage of their research agreements with Xenerex after evaluation of the antibody panels generated to their respective cancer targets. Xenerex recently announced its third research collaboration, DNAX Research Institute of the Schering-Plough Corporation, which is with Dr. Abrams' former employer. In addition to providing antibody research services, Xenerex is also developing its own proprietary antibody product candidate portfolio for potential out-licensing or co-development. To date, Xenerex has identified eight of its own antibody targets to which it is generating antibody product candidates for potential development.

Xenerex Biosciences, a subsidiary of AVANIR Pharmaceuticals, is a biopharmaceutical company with a customer-focused mission to enable partner companies to develop and commercialize completely human antibody products. The company's website is http://www.xenerex.com .

AVANIR Pharmaceuticals, based in San Diego, is a diversified biopharmaceutical company with an FDA-approved product. AVANIR is engaged in research, development, commercialization, licensing and sales of innovative drug products and, through its subsidiary, Xenerex, antibody generation services. The company's website is http://www.AVANIR.com .

Except for the historical information presented herein, matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. Statements that are not historical facts, including statements that are preceded by, followed by, or that include such words like "estimate," "anticipate," "believe," "plan" or "expect" or similar statements are forward-looking statements. In regard to AVANIR Pharmaceuticals and Xenerex Biosciences, risks and uncertainties include risks associated with product discovery and development as well as risks shown in AVANIR's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and quarterly report on Form 10-Q and from time-to-time in other publicly available information regarding the companies. Copies of such information are available from AVANIR upon request. Such publicly available information sets forth many risks and uncertainties related to AVANIR's business and technology. Xenerex's monoclonal antibody technology competes with several technologies used by large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and is subject to a number of uncertainties, including risks associated with the success of clinical trials, the progress of research and product development programs, the regulatory approval process, competitive products and future capital requirements. The companies disclaim any intent or obligations to update these forward-looking statements.

For further information, please contact General Information, Kristen McNally, +1-310-407-6548, kmcnally@webershandwick.com, or Analyst/Investor, Tricia Ross, +1-310-407-6540, tross@webershandwick.com, or Media, Al Orendorff, +1-312-640-6775, aorendorff@webershandwick.com, all of FRB Weber Shandwick, for AVANIR Pharmaceuticals; or Investor Relations, Patrice Saxon of AVANIR Pharmaceuticals, +1-858-622-5202, psaxon@AVANIR.com.

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SOURCE AVANIR Pharmaceuticals

CONTACT:          General Information, Kristen McNally, +1-310-407-6548,
                  kmcnally@webershandwick.com, or Analyst/Investor, Tricia Ross,
                  +1-310-407-6540, tross@webershandwick.com, or Media, Al Orendorff,
                  +1-312-640-6775, aorendorff@webershandwick.com, all of FRB Weber Shandwick,
                  for AVANIR Pharmaceuticals; or Investor Relations, Patrice Saxon of AVANIR
                  Pharmaceuticals, +1-858-622-5202, psaxon@AVANIR.com

URL:              http://www.xenerex.com 
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