By Brady Huggett

AEterna Laboratories Inc. filed its final prospectus for a public offering that will increase its cash position by about C$15.7 million (US$10 million), money meant to support Neovastat, which already is in three pivotal trials.

The offering involves the issuance of about 1.96 million subordinate voting shares, priced at C$8 per share. National Bank Financial Inc., of Toronto, is leading the underwriting. Also participating are Dundee Securities Corp., also of Toronto, and Desjardins Securities Inc., of Quebec. The underwriters have an overallotment option for 293,000 shares.

¿This is dedicated to start a new clinical study we expect to begin in the next few months, for another indication in oncology which we cannot disclose yet,¿ said Dennis Turpin, vice president and chief financial officer at Quebec City, Quebec-based AEterna. ¿Later this year we will meet with the FDA. We are shooting at [it being a pivotal trial], but we will see what they say.¿

After the financing, expected to close Sept. 13, AEterna will have a cash position of about $45 million, Turpin said, and about 32.3 million shares outstanding. AEterna burns through about $17 million annually.

AEterna has busied itself with its lead product, the angiogenesis inhibitor Neovastat.

¿We have a pivotal Phase II trial in multiple myeloma that we expect to finalize recruitment for in the first quarter of next year and have results for later in 2002,¿ Turpin told BioWorld Today. ¿We also have a kidney cancer Phase III ongoing. We expect to finalize recruitment by the end of this year. We are also running a pivotal Phase III with the U.S. National Cancer Institute in non-small-cell lung cancer.¿

The multiple myeloma and kidney cancer trials are international and are designed to support filing in the United States, Canada and Europe. However, the non-small-cell lung cancer trial is the biggest ¿ 780 patients ¿ and results won¿t be seen from that trial until 2005, Turpin said. At this point, the orally administered Neovastat has been used to treat more than 600 patients, Turpin said, and has shown no real toxicity.

Besides funding trials, the financing may help AEterna broaden its technology platform.

¿It gives us a better financial position to continue our growth strategy,¿ Turpin said. ¿We will be well positioned to do some acquisitions. We are looking for additional technologies in the cancer field.¿