By Chris Delporte

Atrix Laboratories Inc. said its public offering of 3 million shares was priced at $23 per share, raising approximately $69 million.

Banc of America Securities LLC, CIBC World Markets Corp. and Gruntal & Co. LLC, all of New York, and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, of Minneapolis, acted as managing underwriters for the offering.

David Bethune, Atrix¿s president and chairman, told BioWorld Today that, including this offering and additional options, Atrix has 18 million shares outstanding. ¿The float is more like 15 million,¿ he said. The company¿s cash position before the offering was roughly $56 million.

The Fort Collins, Colo.-based company said it plans to use the proceeds from the offering to broaden its technologies, supplement it product pipeline and further current development efforts.

¿We really don¿t need the money for profitability,¿ Bethune said. ¿We need it to broaden our technology. For such a small company, we have an extremely large product pipeline. And these are near-term product offerings; they¿re not 10 or 15 years down the road. We¿re really excited about that.¿

Bethune highlighted three products in Atrix¿s pipeline that would immediately benefit from the additional funding.

The first was Atrix¿s Leuprogel bioabsorbable polymer for prostate cancer. Leuprogel is designed to reduce testosterone in the body and slow cancer growth. Leuprogel is delivered using the Atrigel drug delivery system, a biodegradable sustained-release implant for local or systemic delivery. Once Atrigel is mixed with the active drug, the mixed product is injected subcutaneously. Displacement of the carrier with water in the tissue causes the polymer to precipitate and form a solid implant. The implant releases the drug in a controlled manner as the polymer biodegrades. The system can deliver small molecules, peptides or proteins over days or months. One-, three- and four-month Leuprogel products are in various stages of clinical development.

A new drug application has been submitted for the one-month formulation. An NDA for the three-month product is expected later this year, and early next year a filing is expected for the four-month formulation. Sanofi-Synthelabo, of Paris, has U.S, rights to Leuprogel, and MediGene AG, of Martinsried, Germany, has European rights. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 10, 2001, and April 6, 2001.)

Another product in development is Atrisone gel, a topical acne treatment. Patients currently are being enrolled for a Phase III U.S. trial for Atrisone.

The third product is the company¿s polymer-based Bioerodible Muco-Adhesive Film (BEMA) technology, which is designed to incorporate a wide variety of drugs for immediate pain relief. The BEMA film is a small, semi-soft disc that adheres to the mucosa, such as the side of the mouth, and delivers the drug as the film bioerodes. The disc is being evaluated for the treatment of migraine pain relief and cancer pain management. The company expects to file an investigational new drug application with the FDA in the next month. The film is designed to speed drug delivery. Bethune said preclinical trials were almost complete.

Atrix was founded 12 years ago, and previously focused on products for dentistry.

¿I came on board two years ago, and we began to make the transition to a drug delivery company,¿ Bethune said.

The company, which employs 127, has five patented drug delivery technologies and is developing a product portfolio that includes oncology, pain management and dermatology products. Atrix has strategic alliances with Pfizer Inc., of New York; Elan Corp. plc, of Dublin, Ireland; Sanofi-Synthelabo; MediGene AG; and Geneva Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Denver, a division of Novartis Pharma AG, of Basel, Switzerland.

The company¿s stock (NASDAQ: ATRX) rose 31 cents Thursday to close at $24.47.

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