Washington Editor

ViaCell Inc. anticipates raising $92 million in an initial public offering filed four months after the firm withdrew a $115 million IPO.

The Boston-based firm, which could not be reached for comment, has yet to reveal the price range or the number of shares involved in the offering. ViaCell expects to trade under the Nasdaq symbol "VIAC."

ViaCell works on cellular therapies in cancer, infertility and certain genetic and cardiac diseases. According to its prospectus, ViaCell's mission is "to enable the widespread application of human cells as medical therapy."

About two years ago, ViaCell filed its $115 million IPO, but withdrew it in December 2003, citing weak market conditions. On the withdrawal, company officials said they would refile in 2004 on improved conditions. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 1, 2002.)

As of Dec. 31, ViaCell had about $46.8 million in cash. The company was incorporated in September 1994 under the name t. Breeders Inc., but changed its name to ViaCell in April 2000 after acquiring Viacord Inc., a private umbilical cord blood banking business. Since its inception, ViaCell has lost $128.7 million. (See BioWorld Today, May 11, 2000.)

However, the company does have incoming revenue. In January, ViaCell received a $20 million equity infusion from Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen Inc. via a cellular therapy collaboration and license agreement. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 5, 2004.)

Terms provide ViaCell with licensing rights to certain cellular growth factors, while Amgen retains the right to collaborate on resulting products. The arrangement expands a prior relationship between the companies.

An outgrowth of the arrangement - CB001, ViaCell's lead candidate - has entered a Phase I/II trial in older adolescents and adults. According to the prospectus, the candidate is a highly concentrated and purified population of stem cells for the treatment of patients with cancer and other serious diseases. The firm has designed CB001 to be used as a replacement for the bone marrow and other crude cell mixtures used in stem cell transplants as a standard of care.

Beyond Amgen, ViaCell is part of other equity and development partnerships as well. Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., is providing a stem cell stimulant to ViaCell's Selective Amplification process to create a hematopoietic stem cell transplant product. GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London, also is an equity holder in ViaCell.

ViaCell currently markets Viacord, an umbilical cord stem cell cryopreservation product primarily used for pediatric bone marrow transplants.

ViaCell and other defendants recently were sued by PharmaStem Therapeutics Inc., of Larchmont, N.Y., and later found guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, on patent-infringement charges related to the cord stem cell business.

ViaCell's prospectus said if the company is not able to have the verdict overturned, "we could be permanently enjoined from further engaging in this business, which would result in the loss of the current source of almost all of our revenues, or we may be required to pay a royalty in an amount greater than the amount we are currently accruing."

ViaCell received about $30.9 million in 2003 from Viacord sales.