Investor interest continues to climb for Northfield Laboratories Inc., a developer of blood substitute products, which is raising $23.4 million after gaining commitments for a registered direct offering.

The financing comes not four months after a $15 million stock sale, in which investors bought about 2.6 million shares, paying $5.80 apiece. But this time, the transaction involved fewer shares at a higher price - the Evanston, Ill.-based company agreed to sell nearly 2 million common shares at $12 apiece to a group of institutional investors.

The per-share price represents a discount of about 9 percent to Wednesday's closing bid on the stock. On Thursday, the shares (NASDAQ:NFLD) dropped 11 cents to close at $13.07.

SG Cowen & Co. LLC, of New York, is acting as exclusive placement agent in the transaction, which is expected to close May 18.

The company could not be reached for comment.

Northfield said the financing provides additional resources to support its efforts to bring its oxygen-carrying blood substitute, PolyHeme, to the market. The product is being developed for the treatment of urgent, large-volume blood loss in trauma and resultant surgical settings.

Enrollment is under way in a pivotal Phase III trial of PolyHeme's use in a pre-hospital setting. In the past, the company has indicated the study would cost about $15 million. The U.S.-based trial will involve 720 patients. Treatment begins before arrival at a hospital, either at the scene of an injury or in an ambulance, and continues during a 12-hour post-injury period.

A solution of chemically modified human hemoglobin that requires no cross-matching, PolyHeme is designed to be compatible with all blood types and has a shelf-life of more than a year.

The company had $21.8 million in cash reserves as of Feb. 29, as well as 17.1 million shares outstanding. It posted a $3.5 million loss in the preceding three months.

Last summer, a registered direct offering raised $10.6 million for Northfield, followed by the $15 million transaction early this year. (See BioWorld Today, July 25, 2003, and Jan. 27, 2004.)