National Editor

A cynic might say the spirit of the holidays involves only money changing hands. Several biotechnology firms had something to celebrate in the pricings of stock offerings, with one firm going public.

Wrap it up, the companies say. They'll take it.

Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, of Boca Raton, Fla., pulled down $80.5 million by selling 8.5 million shares of common stock at $10 per share, in a deal expected to close Dec. 23.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:NABI) closed Wednesday, the day before the pricing, at $10.35, and moved up 50 cents Thursday to close at $10.85.

Nabi said it will use proceeds from the public offering to develop or acquire internal capacity to manufacture commercial quantities of its lead product in development, StaphVAX; to repay a term loan of $9.5 million under the company's credit agreement; to support future clinical programs and sales and marketing; and for working-capital purposes. Whatever is left over might also be used for product acquisitions or licensing, Nabi said.

In the fall, the company started a pivotal Phase III study with StaphVAX, a polysaccharide conjugate vaccine designed to block Staphylococcus aureus. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 30, 2003.)

That trial continues. Nabi said earlier this month that peak forecasted demand for the vaccine is expected to be higher than the capacity at Cambrex Corp., of East Rutherford, N.J., so the company decided to develop its own manufacturing capacity. Nabi is evaluating the build-out of a vaccine manufacturing plant in an unused portion of its space in Boca Raton, and is looking for a suitable existing facility close to its research and development location in Maryland. Cost and time-to-market, adjusted for risk, will determine which way the decision goes, the company said.

All shares are being offered by Nabi, which granted underwriters an option to buy up to about 1.27 million more shares to cover any overallotments. Lehman Bros. in New York is acting as book runner and co-managers are Wachovia Securities in New York, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis, and Harris Nesbitt Gerard in New York.

Encysive Raises $42M For Sitaxsentan

Encysive Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Houston, priced its offering of 6.5 million shares of common stock at $6.50 per share, raising $42.25 million. The company's shares (NASDAQ:ENCY) closed Wednesday at $6.91, but rose 28 cents Thursday to close at $7.20.

Proceeds will be used for marketing and pre-launch activities related to its late-stage product candidate, sitaxsentan; for clinical development; for research and development of Encysive's other product candidates; and for general corporate purposes, including capital expenditures and other working capital requirements, the company said.

Formerly called Texas Biotechnology Corp., the company renamed itself earlier this year. Sitaxsentan is a pulmonary arterial hypertension drug developed by ICOS-Texas Biotechnology LP, a partnership formed with ICOS Corp., of Bothell, Wash., that was ended this spring when Texas Biotechnology bought back its interest. The drug targets the endothelin A receptor and is in Phase III trials against pulmonary arterial hypertension. (See BioWorld Today, April 24, 2003.)

Argatroban, Encysive's first FDA-approved product, is a thrombin inhibitor marketed by London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

Cowen Securities Corp. in New York is acting as sole book-running manager for the offering, with RBC Capital Markets in Toronto as co-lead manager, and Needham & Co. in New York as co-manager. Encysive granted underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to 975,000 shares to cover overallotments.

Marshall Edwards Joins Public Ranks In U.S.

Pricing its initial public offering in the U.S. was Sydney, Australia-based Novogen Ltd.'s oncology subsidiary, Marshall Edwards Inc., which said it is selling about 2.1 million common stock units at $7.50 each, raising $15.6 million. Each unit consists of one share of common stock and one warrant to purchase a share of common stock at an exercise price of $9 per share. The common stock and the warrants began trading separately on Nasdaq Thursday. The stock (NASDAQ:MSHL) closed at $7.15, up 90 cents, and the warrants (NASDAQ:MSHLW) ended the day at $2.70, up 70 cents.

MEI had said in its September IPO filing that it expected to raise up to $13 million, with about $1.1 million going for Phase II trials of the multiple signal transduction regulator phenoxodiol as a monotherapy in several indications: early stage prostate cancer; squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix, vagina and vulva; and possibly other tumors, such as breast cancer in which diagnosis of early stage disease is available. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 29, 2003.)

In June, the FDA approved an investigational new drug application to start the Phase II trial of oral phenoxodiol in women with SCC. The drug is a small molecule in the isoflavene family that specifically targets the protein sphingosine kinase to block cancer cells' division and migration and induces them to die. It can be dosed orally, intravenously, or through the skin, and both of the first two routes of administration are in development.

Another $4.2 million of the IPO proceeds was earmarked for Phase II trials of the drug in combinational therapy with standard cancer drugs for late-stage, chemo-resistant ovarian cancer, and possibly other tumors, such as renal cancer. A year ago, MEI started Phase II trials with phenoxodiol in patients with leukemia at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

The rest of the proceeds were designated for general corporate purposes, including potential payments by MEI to parent company Novogen - which makes and sells dietary supplements - under the terms of their license agreement.