BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Transgene has raised a total of EUR63.1 million through a rights offering in which it sold a total of 4.21 shares at EUR15 per share. The net proceeds of the operation are estimated at EUR61.4 million (US$54 million).

When it announced the rights issue in April, the Strasbourg-based gene therapy company said it was offering a maximum of 5.3 million ordinary shares and American depository shares and hoped to raise nearly EUR80 million.

Almost all the shares were acquired by its controlling shareholder, the French pharmaceutical company bioMérieux Pierre Fabre, which not only exercised all its share rights in the offering, but also subscribed for additional shares worth EUR17.7 million, making a total investment of EUR59.7 million. As a result, its holding in Transgene has risen from 52.8 percent to 70.3 percent.

A further EUR2.7 million worth of shares was taken up by the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM), increasing its stake in the company to 2.1 percent. The second largest shareholder in Transgene remains Human Genome Sciences Inc., of Rockville, Md. It did not take up its share rights, and its holding fell from 10 percent to 5.9 percent, Transgene Finance Director Paul Bikard said.

He added that it was HGS's policy not to invest further in companies in which it had already made an initial cash investment. HGS originally acquired its interest in Transgene in March 1998, when the companies began a research collaboration.

Transgene is quoted on both the Nasdaq in New York and the Nouveau Marché in Paris, and the shares held by the public now represent some 19.5 percent of its equity, said Bikard.

The company, which had cash and cash equivalents of EUR24.8 million on March 31, said it now has sufficient funding to continue its product development program for three years. At the beginning of April Transgene announced a shift in its corporate strategy toward the development of drug candidates, focusing on immunotherapies for cancer, and two of its candidate cancer vaccines are due to enter Phase II clinical trials in the fourth quarter. Those products, said Bikard, are its MVA-Muc1-IL2 vaccine for the treatment of breast and prostate cancers, and its human papilloma virus vaccine for cervical cancer.

In the first quarter of 2001 Transgene had a net loss of EUR5.5 million, down from EUR6.5 million in the corresponding period of 2000, although its revenues dipped to EUR600,000 from EUR700,000.

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