By Brady Huggett

Senomyx Inc., braving what has been an unkind market, filed a registration statement with the SEC for a proposed $80 million initial public offering.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, of Baltimore, is lead manager of the offering, with Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. and CIBC World Markets Corp., both of New York, acting as co-managers. Senomyx, of La Jolla, Calif., incorporates receptor biology, combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening and bioinformactics into its technology platform to discover proprietary flavor and fragrance molecules.

It plans to trade its shares on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol SNMX. As of Jan. 31, Senomyx had 17.4 million shares outstanding. Company officials are in an SEC-enforced quiet period and could not comment on the offering.

Senomyx said in its prospectus it plans to use the net proceeds for several things, including designing and assembling its integrated technology platform, acquiring and licensing other technologies and proprietary rights, carrying out its molecule discovery process, building screening assay platforms, and synthesizing and purchasing chemical libraries. It also said it would use the proceeds for capital expenditures and general corporate purposes.

In December, Senomyx entered into its first product discovery and development collaboration, signing up with Kraft Foods Inc., of Northfield, Ill., its only product discovery and development collaborator. To this point, Senomyx has generated all its revenue through research funding under this agreement, which provides for research funding until December 2003 and gives Kraft the right to terminate the agreement earlier for any reason after paying a penalty amount.

It has licensed technology or intellectual property rights from the University of California, Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University and Harvard University.

In November, Senomyx began a technology collaboration with Aurora Biosciences Corp., of San Diego, for the discovery of molecules enhancing taste and smell. Under the terms, Senomyx received exclusive rights, subject to rights granted under Aurora's other current and future license agreements, to use Aurora's proprietary screening technologies with its receptor gene targets for the discovery of consumer products enhancing taste and smell.

In December, it entered into a technology collaboration with Incyte Genomics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., for the identification of receptor genes that play a role in taste and smell, hoping to accelerate its discovery of flavor and fragrance molecules. Incyte has provided Senomyx with access to its databases through the collaboration.

On December 31, Senomyx had about $14.5 million in cash, cash equivalents and available-for-sale investments. It raised $10 million in its Series B financing in September 2000 and suggested then it would look to go public sometime in 2001. Before the offering, major shareholders of Senomyx include Bay City Capital LLC, of San Francisco, with 15 percent; Domain Associates LLC, of Princeton, N.J., with 11.7 percent; and Prospect Venture Partners LP, of Palo Alto, Calif., with 10.1 percent. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 15, 2000.)

So far, it has been a rough start to the year for IPOs. January saw Exact Sciences Corp., of Maynard, Mass., price its offering at $14 per share after filing in October, grossing about $56 million. Earlier in February, Third Wave Technologies Inc., of Madison, Wis., got its IPO through, raising about $82.5 million, but only after dropping its number of shares by 1 million and pricing at the low end of its range, $11. On Wednesday, Xenogen Corp., of Alameda, Calif., postponed its proposed IPO that was filed in late September. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 2, 2001, and Feb. 13, 2001.) n