By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co. said it has entered a definitive purchase agreement for the sale of 5.7 million shares of newly issued common stock for $6.20 per share for a gross total of $35.3 million.

Steve Engle, chairman and CEO of San Diego-based La Jolla, would not disclose the company's current cash position, but pointed out it had $42.2 million at the end of the third quarter 2000.

J.P. Morgan Partners (formerly Chase Capital Partners) was the lead investor in this round of financing. La Jolla will have about 35 million outstanding shares after this sale.

Pacific Growth Equities Inc. was placement agent.

Engle said proceeds will be used to fund Phase III clinical trials of LJP 394, a lupus drug, and for the development of LJP 1082, a thrombosis drug. "We believe this money will fund the trials through the end of 2002," Engle said.

La Jolla in late July raised $29 million through the sale of 4.8 million shares at $6.125 per share. (See BioWorld Today, July 20, 2000.)

La Jolla's stock (NASDAQ:LJPC) closed unchanged Tuesday at $6.75.

Following the July transaction, Engle stated that the money was necessary to further fund the LJP 394 trials, which hit a few snags earlier in the year when preliminary results of a Phase II/III trial indicated the drug wasn't likely to reach its primary endpoints. (See BioWorld Today, May 4, 2000.)

Then in September, La Jolla initiated a two-year Phase III trial on LJP 394 designed to confirm the positive results from the Phase II/III trial for patients with high-affinity antibodies to the product. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 21, 2000.)

The drug is intended to reduce levels of antibodies to double-stranded DNA, which are believed to be responsible for lupus kidney disease.

Engle said La Jolla has 50 sites qualified to enroll in the Phase III trial and 150 patients in the screening process. Currently there are 50 patients who have been randomized to either the drug or placebo, he said.

La Jolla also plans to file an investigational new drug application in mid-2001 for the thrombosis drug designed for stroke treatment.