By LINDA A. JOHNSON AP Business Writer KENILWORTH, N.J. (AP) _ Schering-Plough Corp. has many promising drugs in late testing and years of patent protection for its key products, unlike most of its competitors, Chief Executive Fred Hassan told analysts last Monday. The drugmaker has five “star” compounds in late testing or about to be launched, plus 13 other experimental drugs it believes could be best or first in class.”We believe we’re hitting the sweet spot on R&D and patent exclusivity” at a time when competitors have problems in those areas, Hassan told analysts gathered at Schering-Plough’s headquarters for its first daylong research update since 2005. With its acquisition of biotechnology company Organon Biosciences late last year, it now has the world’s biggest animal health business. Schering-Plough is now working with its “cutting-edge animal vaccine technology” to develop vaccines for people, Hassain said, including trying to make a cell-based flu vaccine that could be safer and quicker to make than current egg-based vaccines. The Organon deal has helped the company expand research on biologics — drugs made through genetic engineering or grown in cells — to about 20 percent of projects, including potential drugs for various cancers and auto-immune disorders. It also boosted the women’s health division, which one executive said is leading the way to eventual pill-only fertility treatments instead of the barrage of injections standard now. In a repeated hockey metaphor, several executives told analysts the company is taking more and better “shots on goal” with its experimental compounds. Last year, the company had 19 drug candidates in late testing, up from 3 or 4 a year in the 1990s and early in this decade. “Picking early winners from the pipeline is key, and then we commit to expeditious execution,” said Ismail Kola, chief scientific officer. Other company executives were to give detailed presentations on specific research areas and compounds. Despite all the news about promising future products and its much-improved finances, the maker of hepatitis drugs, the Proventil and Asmanex asthma inhalers, and consumer products such as Claritin and the Dr. Scholl’s line has its troubles. It has seen sales of the cholesterol drugs it jointly markets with partner Merck & Co., Vytorin and Zetia, slide amid effectiveness and safety concerns. Schering-Plough had two new drugs rejected by U.S. regulators this year and in April announced a 10 percent staff cut, mainly due to the cholesterol drug problems.