BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany - The tissue-engineering company co.don AG plans to have the initial public offering of its shares next week on Frankfurt's Neuer Markt.

The Teltow, Germany-based company is offering 1.3 million individual share certificates. In addition there will be a greenshoe of up to 200,000 shares. The expected range is between EUR13 and EUR15 per share, which would result in gross proceeds of EUR16.9 million (US$15.7 million) to EUR 19.5 million. The price per share will be disclosed Monday.

Underwriters are the Baden-Württembergische Bank AG (leading) and Bankgesellschaft Berlin AG. Following the transaction about 32 percent of the shares will be in free float, assuming exercise of the overallotment option.

Board members Olivera Josimovic Alasevic and Karl Gerd Fritsch committed to hold their shares for 24 months. Following the IPO each board members will hold 21.1 percent of the shares. Other major shareholders are TVM Medical Ventures, of Munich (7.5 percent); Alpinvest International, of Naarden, the Netherlands (5.7 percent); tbg, of Bonn, (4.1 percent); and KB LUX Venture Capital, of Luxembourg (1.6 percent).

The company develops and sells human cell and tissue substitutes grown from patients' own cells. Its major product is "chondrotransplant," an autologous chondrocyte transplant for regeneration of deficient joint cartilage. In Germany, where the company has manufacturing approval since 1997, more than 600 patients have been treated with this product. Co.don also holds approvals for export to Austria and Switzerland.

The company since 1997 also has had manufacturing approval for osteotransplant and chondrotransplant DISC, transplants grown from autologous cells. One osteotransplant application is for treatment of difficult fractures. About 10 patients have been treated so far, co.don spokeswoman Rima Baag told BioWorld International.

"Up to now we have mainly focused on applications of chrondrotransplant," because it serves a larger potential market, she said. Chondrotransplant DISC is made mainly for regeneration of intervertebral discs. Clinical studies evaluating the product are ongoing.

Co.don also sells surgery tools related to its products and plans to license out proprietary tests for diagnosing patients' osteoporosis risk.

Co.don's current transplants are fluids. In its pipeline the company has 3-dimensional tissue transplants.

"These are spheres 2 millimeters in diameter, which is the thickness of normal cartilage layer in the human body," Baag said. "This so-called chrondrosphere is made without any additional substances or matrix material. It is currently undergoing clinical trials for treatment of arthrosis."

Encapsulated cells for treatment of rheumatic diseases, autologous cell coverage of heart valves and artificial blood vessels are further projects in co.don's pipeline.

The company wants to use money from the IPO mainly to support further growth in the U.S. and Singapore, where the company plans to establish manufacturing sites. The company expects FDA approval of chondrotransplant by 2002.

Co.don's estimated sales were DM1.5 million (US$713,000) in 2000, and are DM3.5 million in 2001, said Baag. The company, founded in 1993, expects to break even in 2003 or 2004.