Medarex Inc. is looking to divest a quarter of its interest in a wholly owned subsidiary through a public sale of shares in Celldex Therapeutics Inc., while Icagen Inc. also registered for an initial public offering.

As a result, Bloomsbury, N.J.-based Celldex registered for an estimated $50 million initial public offering. Celldex filed for listing on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol "CDEX," though it has yet to specify the number of shares planned for sale or their price.

Princeton, N.J.-based Medarex said it would continue to hold about 75 percent of Celldex's outstanding common stock, equal to 9 million shares, following the IPO. In its annual report, Medarex said it planned to assign Celldex rights to a product labeled MDX-1307. Now called HCG-VAC as Celldex's lead product, it is a cancer vaccine for colorectal, pancreatic, bladder and breast cancers.

One of five Medarex subsidiaries, Celldex is focusing its efforts on therapeutic vaccines designed to elicit immune responses against cancer.

An investigational new drug application related to HCG-VAC's uses for colorectal, pancreatic and bladder cancers became effective in February, and the company expects to begin Phase I trials by July. Medarex would not be entitled to license fees or milestone payments with respect to the product, though it might receive royalty payments on any product sales.

Celldex said it would use proceeds from its IPO to fund research and product development, including clinical trials; to expand its research and development facilities and staff; to make payments to Medarex, including fees relating to the management of a clinical trial for HCG-VAC as well as payments under a lease; and for general corporate purposes and working capital requirements.

In addition to its lead product, other candidates in the 12-employee company's pipeline are in preclinical stages of development. Most are oncology-related, designed to fight colorectal, liver and prostate cancers, as well as melanoma. Another is being evaluated in collaboration with Yale University for the prevention of graft-vs.-host disease.

The company incorporated last May as MabVac Inc., and earlier this month reincorporated as Celldex, effecting a 500,000-for-1 split of its common stock in contemplation of the IPO.

The offering's sole underwriter is Janney Montgomery Scott Inc., of Philadelphia.

Medarex posted a $129.3 million net loss last year, and it ended 2003 with about $375.7 million in cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities and segregated cash. The company had about 78.3 million shares outstanding as of Dec. 31.

On Tuesday, Medarex's stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) lost 34 cents to close at $9.16.

Icagen IPO To Fund Clinical Development

Just months after completing its latest private financing, small-molecule drug developer Icagen filed for an $86.25 million IPO.

The company registered for listing on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol "ICGN." Icagen has not specified the number of shares planned for sale, nor their price.

Based in Durham, N.C., it plans to use a portion of any funds raised for clinical trials, including an expected Phase III study of ICA-17043 for sickle cell anemia. It recently completed a Phase II trial of the product and plans to begin a pivotal trial in the fourth quarter. Other clinical trial plans are focused on ICA-69673, a product in Phase I work for epilepsy and neuropathic pain.

Icagen, which retains full worldwide commercialization rights to both clinical-stage products, also plans to apply proceeds toward preclinical testing and other research and development activities, which include programs focused on therapeutics for pain disorders, inflammatory disorders and glaucoma. The company said it would use the balance for working capital and other general corporate purposes.

Other products are being developed by partners - a compound for atrial fibrillation in Phase I testing under the watch of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, and compounds for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, in preclinical development by Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo. Another partnership, which dates back nearly seven years, involves the development of small-molecule drugs that target a specific ion channel for the treatment of neuropathic and inflammatory pain in concert with Abbott Laboratories. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 9, 1997.)

Icagen's co-founders include Kay Wagoner, who serves as president and CEO and as a director, and Jefferson Leighton, the company's chairman. Since its 1992 inception, the company has raised about $70 million, including $19.5 million reported two months ago. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 3, 2004.)

Icagen's principal shareholders include Alta BioPharma Partners LP, of San Francisco, with a 13.1 percent stake; Venrock Associates II LP, of New York, with 10.4 percent; Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill., with 10.1 percent; J.P. Morgan Partners (SBIC) LLC, of New York, with 8.1 percent; and HBM BioVentures (Cayman) Ltd. in the Cayman Islands, with 7.4 percent.

The offering's lead underwriters are J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. and UBS Securities LLC. Additional underwriting is tasked to CIBC World Markets Corp. All are based in New York.