By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Like the little engine that could, Genvec Inc. - after lowering its target twice - finally did price its initial public offering (IPO), settling on yet another reduction to $9.50 per share for 4 million shares, which raised $38 million.

The Gaithersburg, Md.-based company's lead product in Phase II trials is BioBypass angiogen, a modified, replication-deficient adenoviral vector that delivers the vascular endothelial growth factor gene, VEGF 121, into cells of heart muscle to promote blood vessel growth around blockages. Oncology and ophthalmology are other focus areas.

For Genvec, the road to status as a public company has been long. As long ago as the summer of 1998, it withdrew its IPO, citing market conditions. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 4, 1998.)

Genvec filed the attempt that would make it through, albeit with price target changes, in October of this year. The next month, it set the target to a range of between $14 and $16 for 4 million shares. But, a month later, the target went to a range of between $11 and $12. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 9, 2000.)

The final, $9.50 IPO, after which Genvec will have 17.82 million shares outstanding, comes with an overallotment option of 600,000 shares for underwriters.

J.P. Morgan & Co., of New York, is the sole book-running manager for the offering. UBS Warburg LLC, of Stamford, Conn., and A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., of St. Louis, are co-managers.

Genvec's technology incorporates genes into modified adenoviruses and injects them with catheters and syringes. In July 1997, the company entered a partnership with Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J., using the VEGF gene against coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. The deal was not affected by New York-based Pfizer Inc.'s buyout of Warner-Lambert earlier this year.

Further back in the Genvec pipeline are TNFerade, to be used with radiation therapy against cancer; Genstent, to block the narrowing of blood vessels from vascular damage caused by angioplasty and vascular grafts; and pigment epithelium-derived factor, a group that includes a number of candidates to treat macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

On its first day of trading, Genvec's stock (NASDAQ:GNVC) closed at $9.875, after reaching a high of $11.75.