Washington Editor

Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it intends to publicly offer 4 million shares of common stock to help fund its drug discovery projects and possibly to pay the cost of hiring a 60-person sales force.

Inspire, of Durham, N.C., in January filed a shelf registration statement covering $100 million in common stock, and on Friday it was declared effective. The company assumed in its prospectus an offering price of $13.99 per share, which would raise about $56 million.

Inspire's stock (NASDAQ:ISPH) fell 56 cents Tuesday to close at $13.50.

While Inspire remains in its SEC-imposed quiet period, Mary Bennett, company vice president of operations and communications, told BioWorld Today money raised in the offering will be used to "aggressively develop the rhinitis program" and to "continue to fund important discovery programs leading to new investigational drug applications."

She added that the company has an option to co-promote the products Restasis and diquafosol. Assuming both reach the market and Inspire picks up the option, she said Inspire "would be looking to build a specialty 60-rep sales force in the fourth quarter of this year."

Restasis, due to be launched in April, is Allergan Inc.'s dry-eye product cleared in December for marketing. In June 2001, Inspire and Allergan entered a deal for Restasis and Inspire's diquafosol tetrasodium (INS365), which also is a dry-eye product. Bennett said Inspire would receive royalties on Restasis worldwide, excluding larger Asian markets. (See BioWorld Today, June 28, 2001.)

Meanwhile, Inspire expects to submit a new drug application for INS365 mid-year. The product is an eye drop administered four times daily in patients who suffer from chronic dry eye, a condition involving abnormalities and deficiencies in the tear film. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 31, 2002.)

Inspire also is working on INS37217 Intranasal for the treatment of upper respiratory disorders. The company completed one Phase I/II trial and two Phase II studies on the product, and recently completed enrollment in a Phase III study in perennial allergic rhinitis. (Allergic rhinitis is a condition that results from exposure to allergens, either at specific times of the year or year-round.) INS37217 also is being studied in cystic fibrosis and as a treatment for retinal disease.

In total, Inspire has five product candidates, all of which are P2Y2 receptor agonists.

For the year ended Dec. 31, 2002, Inspire had $31.1 million in cash and investments, Bennett said. Inspire said in its prospectus it would have about 29.9 million shares outstanding following the offer.

Revenues decreased in 2002 to $4.9 million from $7.3 million for the year. The company reported a net loss of $24.7 million, or 96 cents per common share for 2002, compared to $23.1 million, or 90 cents per common share in 2001.

Deutsch Bank Securities, of New York, is acting as book-running manager for the offering, with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, of Minneapolis, acting as co-lead manager. The underwriters have an option on 600,000 shares to cover any overallotments.