Following a recent trend of lower-than-expected pricings, Immunicon Corp. stepped up to the initial public offering plate on Friday, raising a total of $48 million.

The Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-based company initially hoped to bring in $86.25 million. Instead, it priced its 6 million shares at $8 each. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 10, 2003.)

Although the funds represent only a little more than half of the intended amount, IPO and biotech experts say any completed IPO in which the stock climbs is a successful one.

And climb it did, rising $1.50, or 18.8 percent, to close out at $9.50 on Friday. The company listed its stock on Nasdaq under the "IMMC" ticker symbol.

"For a company looking to do an IPO, there's a balancing act from wanting the most immediate revenue you can get, and also seeing a prompt reasonable increase in stock price," said Philip Colbran, a partner at New York-based Chadbourne & Parke LLP, who represents companies and underwriters in IPOs and secondary offerings.

"There's no advantage," Colbran told BioWorld Today, "to a company that prices at $14 a share that then drops down to $8. They may have more in the coffers to start with, but the market is not going to be happy."

According to its prospectus, Immunicon expects to use $42.9 million in net proceeds, not including the exercise of the overallotment option, to provide working capital and to fund anticipated operating losses. More specifically, it will use $20 million to manufacture and commercialize its research and diagnostic products, $10 million for clinical trials, $7 million for other research and development activities, $5 million for capital expenditures and the rest for working capital and other general corporate purposes.

New York-based SG Cowen Securities Corp. is lead underwriter. Co-managing underwriters are Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc., of Baltimore, and Adams, Harkness & Hill Inc., of Boston. The underwriters have an overallotment option for an additional 900,000 shares to raise another $7.2 million.

Following the IPO, the company has 21.9 million shares of common stock outstanding.

Immunicon is the 11th biotech company to price an IPO in the U.S. this year. A number of others also have priced at the low end of their range, if not below.

San Diego-based Santarus Inc. raised $54 million in its IPO conducted earlier this month. It originally intended to raise $85 million. A few days later, Memory Pharmaceuticals Corp., of Montvale, N.J., raised $35 million - less than half of the $86.25 million it initially filed to raise. (See BioWorld Today, April 2, 2004, and April 6, 2004.)

"The trends we're seeing now are fund managers are really in the driver's seat to the extent that if they can continue to get a discount, they're going to ask for it," said Rhonda Chiger, the founder and co-president of New York-based Rx Communications LLC, which provides investor relations and financial communications counsel to biotech companies.

Chiger said investor interest in biotech companies has changed over the last few years.

"In 2000, we had the genomics craze, we had to be in the sector, technology was hot," she told BioWorld Today. "In 2004, there's a different perspective. Fund managers are much more product oriented. They have the technology, but now what's the use of that technology?"

As for the companies' perspective, some of them might be willing to conduct IPOs at lower pricings because they need the money, while other companies are just trying to plan ahead.

"Some of the companies don't have to finance right now, but there are some that realize that over the next 18 months they need to fill up the bank, and probably feel, due to their past experiences, that there is a window," Chiger said.

Companies across the board - not just biotech companies - are raising money at the low end of their ranges with IPOs. It's a reflection of corporate earnings, politics and terrorism that drive the market, Colbran said. It's also supply and demand.

"One of the top flavors of the month recently is biotech," he said. "And when you have a number of issues coming to market at the same or similar times, than obviously, investors have more to choose from."

According to BioWorld Snapshots, there are 19 biotech companies on file for IPOs.

Immunicon focuses on developing and commercializing cell-based research and diagnostic products for cancer. The company's partner Veridex LLC, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, received 510(k) clearance from the FDA in January to use CellSearch Epithelial Cell Kit for the management of metastatic breast cancer. In addition to breast cancer, Immunicon's technologies can detect prostate, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancers. While it focuses mainly on cancer, some of the company's products might potentially treat cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

Immunicon's products are integrated to allow researchers to collect, isolate, label, count and analyze circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Clinical trials have shown that only a few CTCs in a blood sample can predict whether a therapy is likely to benefit a patient. That allows physicians to select more effective treatments and reduce the overall treatment costs.

Now Immunicon is working on a product to detect and analyze endothelial cells in blood, which might help diagnose cancer, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases. The company also is exploring the development of products that detect pathogens in the blood, such as fungi.

Under Immunicon's 20-year partnership with Veridex, the company will receive 30 percent of net sales from the sale of reagents, test kits and certain other consumable and disposable items based on its technologies. The partnership can be renewed for three-year terms.

In addition to the epithelial cell kit, the companies also are marketing, for research use only, CellTracks AutoPrep System, which processes blood samples prior to analysis; CellSpotter Analyzer, a semi-automated fluorescence microscope used to count and characterize cells; and CellSave Preservative Tube, a blood-sample collection tube.

Veridex and Immunicon plan to launch the four products for IVD use in the third quarter.

The company has 109 employees. As of Dec. 31, it had cash and cash equivalents of $30.6 million.