By Matthew Willett

Ribapharm Inc., the research and development arm of ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., amended its registration for the $250 million initial public offering it proposed last June.

ICN, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., opted to split into three units: Ribapharm, a biotechnology company; a European and Pacific Basin company; and the existing ICN, which has operations in the Western Hemisphere, in an effort to enhance shareholder value. (See BioWorld Today, June 16, 2000.)

The amendment solidifies the number of Ribapharm shares to be sold at 18 million and the price range at $13 to $15.

UBS Warburg LLC, of Stamford, Conn., is lead underwriter for the 18-million-share offering and CIBC World Markets Corp., of New York, is co-manager. Shares will be traded under the symbol ¿RIBA.¿ ICN granted underwriters an option to purchase an additional 2.7 million shares to cover overallotments. The offering is expected to price this quarter.

The independent Ribapharm will still be majority owned by ICN, as will the European and Pacific Basin company, but will maintain ICN¿s product revenues from Rebotron/Rebetol (ribavirin/Virazole), marketed in the U.S. and Europe for treatment of hepatitis C.

Rebotron is marketed by Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., in combination with interferon alfa-2b.

ICN¿s royalties from Rebotron, which will become Ribapharm¿s royalties once the offering is complete, were $110 million in 1999.

Ribapharm also will keep ICN¿s research and development projects, including ICN¿s library of more than 3,500 nucleoside analogue compounds, laboratories, equipment, intellectual property, research and development personnel and the company¿s facilities in Costa Mesa.

Ribapharm will have two products in clinical testing, Tiazole and Adenazole. Tiazole has completed Phase I/II trials in chronic myelogenous leukemia. The company is considering testing the compound in ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma. Adenazole began Phase I trials in colon cancer earlier this year.

The company also has two product candidates in preclinical studies, Levovirin and Viramide. Levovirin may stimulate an immune response to certain viruses without the anemia associated with ribavirin, and the company filed an investigational new drug application for it in February.

Preclinical studies of Viramide indicated it may generate an antiviral and immune response to viral infections similar to ribavirin, but without some of the side effects, Ribapharm said.

ICN¿s shares (NYSE:ICN) dropped 77 cents Tuesday to close at $27.74.

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