By Alan Sverdlik

Despite an uncertain climate in the biotechnology sector, Northwest Biotherapeutics Inc., a developer of immunotherapies for various stages of prostate cancer, filed an initial public offering in the hopes of raising $48.3 million.

The company, based in Bothell, Wash., will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker NWBT. Only seven biotech IPOs have gone to market thus far in 2001, compared to nearly 60 for the same period last year.

There was no immediate comment from the company¿s CEO, Daniel Wilds, who said through a spokeswoman that the firm would not discuss details of the offering during the SEC-required quiet period.

According to a statement that accompanied the IPO filing, the proceeds will go towards research and development and clinical trials, and partly to pay a fee to Northwest Hospital, a close partner of Northwest Biotherapeutics and a supplier of tissue samples. The firm was incubated by Northwest Hospital, which provided $3 million in seed money after it decided to create and spin out Northwest Biotherapeutics in 1996. (See BioWorld Today, April 21, 2000).

The hospital was a testing ground for the proprietary technologies that have been at the core of Northwest Biotherapeutics, which was founded by the hospital¿s director of molecular medicine.

The principal immunotherapy is intended to reduce prostate-specific antigen levels and stop cancer from spreading in soft tissue and bones, which can cause great pain in patients with advanced prostate cancer. The company presented data from its Phase I/II trial in the spring. A second application of the dendritic cell-based therapy applies to renal, brain and lung cancers, and the third uses a polymer-based brachytherapy for outpatient treatment of localized prostate cancer.

In April 2001, Northwest Biotherapeutics formed a strategic alliance with Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., to generate fully human antibodies against cancer. It was the second collaboration between the companies. (See BioWorld Today, April 26, 2001.)