La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co. entered into an agreement for the sale of 7 million shares of common stock to institutional and other investors to raise gross proceeds of $51.6 million, which will support clinical trials of La Jolla’s lupus and thrombosis drugs.

The purchase price was $7.37 per share, and the transaction is expected to close Friday. UBS Warburg LLC, of New York, and Pacific Growth Equities Inc., of San Francisco, served as placement agents.

La Jolla’s stock (NASDAQ:LJPC) fell 19 cents on Wednesday to close at $8.30.

The company will have about 42 million shares outstanding after the stock sale, Steven Engle, chairman and CEO of La Jolla, told BioWorld Today.

“We estimate that we will have ended 2002 with over $45 million in the bank, and with these funds expect to be able to go through 2003,” Engle said.

The company is conducting a Phase III trial of LJP 394 in lupus and a Phase I/II trial in thrombosis with LJP 1082.

“We do work on diseases where antibodies cause the problem,” Engle said.

Its platform technology is designed to eliminate antibodies that are causing the problems. In the case of lupus, these antibodies destroy the kidneys. La Jolla presented Phase II/III data on LJP 394 last week at the SLE: Targets for New Therapeutics scientific conference sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the SLE Foundation in Bethesda, Md. The data showed that LJP 394 improved or sustained health-related quality of life in patients with lupus renal disease.

“What we’ve been able to show is that we could lower the occurrence of renal flares and reduce the number of uses of high-dose corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs,” Engle said, noting that La Jolla will have to confirm these findings in the current Phase III trial.

LJP 1082 is for patients who are pro-thrombotic, or those who have two to four times the chance of experiencing their next event, which could be deep-vein thrombosis, stroke or heart attack, or even recurrent fetal loss, Engle said.

“In both cases, we’re talking about young people,” he said.

Engle said the company already has 200 people enrolled in the Phase III lupus trial, which it hopes to complete before the end of the year. The Phase I/II thrombosis trial is scheduled for completion at the end of this quarter.

While these trials should keep La Jolla busy, Engle said the company also will be researching ways in which to use its technology in other disease areas.