By Randall Osborne
West Coast Editor
In part to advance its anticoagulant drug for deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), cash is flowing freely into the coffers of Corvas International Inc., which priced a public offering of 5 million shares at $20 per share, to raise $100 million.
The company, which has granted underwriters an option for 750,000 more shares as overallotments, would have garnered $115 million by selling the same quantity of stock at prices when the offering was filed. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 3, 2000.)
"Typically, with road shows, the price moves all over the map," said Gwenetta Como, director of investor relations for San Diego-based Corvas. "But I don't think we've raised this money in a single tranche. People are starting to realize [biotech runs according to] a cycle, like with the other industries, where you have your boom and bust periods. We were able to take advantage of this little boomlet."
With the sale, Corvas has 26.2 million shares outstanding.
Proceeds will fund clinical trials and preclinical programs, and pay for in-licensing and acquisitions of products, technologies or companies, as well as general corporate purposes.
Corvas has two recombinant proteins in development. Its lead product, UK-279,276, partnered with New York-based Pfizer Inc., is undergoing Phase II tests as a treatment for reperfusion injury related to ischemic stroke. Pfizer has completed a Phase IIa trial in stroke patients and plans to begin a Phase IIb trial in the fourth quarter of this year. Another deal with Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., is focused on synthetic antivirals for hepatitis C virus. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 18, 1998.)
"We also have a small oral anticoagulant program with Schering-Plough, but that's due to expire next month," Como said. "We're not sure whether it will be renewed or not. What we're banking on are the programs we have under our control."
An example is the second product, known as rNAPc2, for preventing DVT and pulmonary embolism, and for the treatment of unstable angina. Corvas finished a Phase II trial with favorable results and aims for a Phase III study in the second half of next year. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 15, 2000.)
Other programs are working on drugs to modulate proteases involved in cancer and other diseases. Corvas has chosen a small-molecule lead candidate protease inhibitor that has shown efficacy in animal models of prostate tumors.
"What we've been saying is, it's [for] solid tumor cancers - breast, prostate," Como said. "Our goal is to get a compound into Phase I by the middle of next year."
She said adjuncts to the protease effort are "a few programs in infectious disease, malaria and hepatitis, although those aren't really the main emphasis. Proteases were really big when the first HIV [drugs] came into vogue, but there's a lot we can still learn about how they function in disease states."
CIBC World Markets Corp., of New York, leads the offering, with Prudential Vector Healthcare Group, of New York, and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, of Minneapolis, co-managers.
As of Sept. 30, Corvas had $30.9 million in cash and equivalents, with a net loss for the period of $3.1 million, or 15 cents per share. The company's stock (NASDAQ:CVAS) closed Friday at $24.062, up $1.062.