Inhibitex Inc.'s IPO ship finally set sail.

The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company priced a $35 million initial public offering Friday, but only after lowering its per-share price from its original estimate. It sold 5 million common shares at $7 apiece, a discount from its previous asking range of $10 to $12, as well as 900,000 fewer shares than first planned.

The marked-down pricing follows a trend seen in 12 of the other 17 biotech IPOs in the U.S. this year. The company registered for the offering three months ago. (See BioWorld Today, March 5, 2004.)

On their first day on the market, Inhibitex's shares (NASDAQ:INHX) rose 22 cents to close at $7.22. The stock, which climbed as high as $7.75 on volume of 865,880, never traded below its original price.

The transaction was completed with San Francisco-based Thomas Weisel Partners LLC and New York-based Lazard Freres & Co. acting as joint book-running managers. Harris Nesbitt Gerard, also of New York, is acting as co-manager. Inhibitex granted the underwriters a 30-day, 750,000-share overallotment option, as well.

Company officials could not comment due to SEC-imposed quiet-period rules.

But according to its prospectus, Inhibitex plans to use the bulk of the proceeds to advance its antibody-based products, of which two are in late-stage clinical testing, and apply the remainder for working capital and general corporate purposes.

The company's lead product, Veronate, is expected to enter a confirmatory Phase III trial in the second half of this year to prevent hospital-associated infections in premature, very low-birth-weight infants. A 512-patient Phase II trial demonstrated the product to be safe and well tolerated. Compared to placebo, a 750-mg/kg dose of Veronate showed a 63 percent reduction in the frequency of infection due to Staphylococcus aureus, a 67 percent reduction in the frequency of infection due to Candida and a 36 percent reduction in mortality. The product has fast-track and orphan drug status.

A second candidate, Aurexis, is in a Phase II trial as a first-line therapy in combination with standard-of-care antibiotics to treat S. aureus bloodstream infections in hospitalized patients. Enrollment in the 60-patient study is expected to close by the end of this year, with early data expected during the first half of next year. The company, which is studying Aurexis in cystic fibrosis and end-stage renal disease, also might add Phase II trials in those indications.

Inhibitex also has three programs in preclinical development, all in the anti-infective arena.

The IPO marks the fourth biotech debut in recent days. Critical Therapeutics Inc., of Lexington, Mass., raised $42 million; Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, raised $35 million; and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., raised $30 million, all in the past two weeks. (See BioWorld Today, May 28, 2004, and June 1, 2004.)

Seventeen biotech companies remain lined up for their IPOs.