ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. raised C$26.2 million (US$16.9 million) that will be used to advance its clinical programs.

Montreal-based ProMetic closed public and private offerings of 9.7 million shares at C$2.70 per share, the company said. The offerings were made through a syndicate of underwriters led by Dundee Securities Corp., of Toronto, and including National Bank Financial, of Montreal; Scotia Capital, of Toronto; and Desjardins Securities, of Montreal.

"The market is difficult, but the deal was oversubscribed," ProMetic President and CEO Pierre Laurin said. "We were very pleased with that."

Laurin said it's possible that the company, which is traded publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange, might never have to raise money again, since its technology licensing business is getting closer to profitability.

"That side of our business is beginning to generate revenue, and profit from those activities as we progress will be offsetting our R&D expenditure," Laurin said. "Definitely in 2003, the company will be at a break-even stage, including R&D."

The company's revenues should exceed its expenditures in 2004, he said.

"Our burn rate suggests that we have enough money to go through that phase before the revenue puts us in a definite profit position," he said.

ProMetic has a hybrid business model, both licensing out its technology and developing its own products.

In the meantime, ProMetic will be accelerating its development by taking recombinant alpha 1-antitrypsin into clinical studies for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis in the next few weeks, Laurin said. The trials will begin through a joint venture with Arriva Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Alameda, Calif., called Arriva ProMetic, that was established in April 1999, Laurin said. (See BioWorld Today, May 8, 2002.)

He said the advantage for ProMetic at this point is that studies already have been done by Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany, with alpha 1-antitrypsin derived from plasma. Now, the studies have to be repeated with recombinant products.

"There is a relatively low risk of medical failure given that we know the alpha 1-antitrypsin is effective," he said.

The disadvantage in deriving it from plasma is that there are limited quantities, Laurin said, and Bayer can supply drug to only about 4,000 people with emphysema, while there is a waiting list in the tens of thousands, he said.

And ProMetic has plans beyond alpha 1-antitrypsin.

"We will be taking a new product into the clinic later in the year - it protects neutrophils in bone marrow during chemotherapy," Laurin said.

The company's technology licensing component rests on its Mimetic Ligands. That enabling technology is a chemical entity designed to bind to protein in a very specific manner, he said, and those chemical entities are "more or less used to replace antibodies."

Traditionally, the technology has been used by pharmaceutical companies in the manufacturing process, Laurin said, but its uses are growing.

In April, the company entered a joint venture with the American Red Cross dedicated to researching, developing and commercializing diagnostic and removal systems for pathogens that may cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and certain viruses. TSEs, including the human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, are believed to be prion diseases. The Red Cross will use ProMetic's Mimetic Ligand technology to purify the blood of TSEs in return for a 26 percent equity stake in the company, Laurin said.

ProMetic was spun out of Cambridge University in the UK in 1988, but since then there has been a series of restructurings. The current holding company was founded in 1994 and taken public in Canada in July 1998, Laurin said.

The company has about 92 employees today, but that number is expected to grow to about 100 by year's end, Laurin said.

ProMetic's stock (TSX:PLI) fell C4 cents Monday to close at C$2.59.

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