By Brady Huggett

NaPro BioTherapeutics Inc. grossed $17.5 million by selling 2 million shares of common stock through a private placement that could be its last financing ever, in the unlikely event it remains a single-product company.

"It could last us, potentially, forever," said Gordon Link, chief financial officer of NaPro BioTherapeutics. "If we were to go forward as the company we are today, we would probably never need to raise more cash."

Stonegate Securities Inc., of Dallas, acted as placement agent for the transaction and net proceeds are expected to be approximately $16.4 million. Gordon said NaPro had about $5 million to $6 million in cash before the financing and about 26 million shares outstanding following the private placement.

NaPro, of Boulder, Colo., focuses on the development, production and licensing of complex natural-product pharmaceuticals.

As part of a partnership formed in 1999 with Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill. - for certain oral or intravenous formulations of paclitaxel - NaPro was granted a $20 million line of credit. Paclitaxel is a compound with antitumor activity extracted from the bark of certain yew trees. (See BioWorld Today, July 27, 1999.)

NaPro had been surviving on that money - it had about $6 million left - until this financing, Link said.

"Part of the deal with Abbot was the line of credit," Link said. "That's what we have been using since July 1999. Not just for operating expenses, but general corporate purposes. We saw our stock appreciate nicely in the past year and thought it was a good time to raise some money."

NaPro's burn rate is about $700,000 a month, Link said. But it's the prospect of an influx of money from paclitaxel that would alleviate the need for further financings.

"It could be our last financing," Link said. "We expect to be commercial with our product in the United States with Abbott and to generate positive cash flow from operations."

But Link doesn't think NaPro will remain the company it is today, focusing most of its resources on the development and manufacture of paclitaxel.

"If we stayed a single-product company, then we could go ahead," Link said. "But we are actively seeking to in-license technologies and products. And that will use cash. If we in-license a product or technology that takes a lot of capital, we could need a new financing. Of course, actively seeking and a buck will buy you a cup of coffee."

The money does give NaPro more clout, Link said.

"It's nice to have a little bit of cash on the balance sheet," he said. "It gives you a stronger position when negotiating."

NaPro has three other classes of oncology products in very early stages of development. But for now, it will move ahead with paclitaxel and the plan to bring in something else.

"We expect to announce at least one interesting in-licensing technology by the end of the year," Link said. "But that's an expectation."

NaPro's stock (NASDAQ:NPRO) dipped 23.4 cents Monday to close at $9.937.