By Matthew Willett

ConjuChem Inc., in vivo bioconjugators of novel therapeutics, filed a preliminary prospectus for an initial public offering in Canada hoping to raise C$25 million to C$30 million (US$20 million).

Founded in 1997 by venture investors BioCapital Inc. and Sociiti Innovatech du Grand Montrial, the company completed Series A financing of $4.4 million in April 1998.

ConjuChem, headquartered in Montreal, has raised a total of about $25.41 million to date, including a financing of $8.49 million in August 1999, a January investment of $2.34 million from the China Development Industrial Bank, and an investment of just under a quarter of a million dollars from Medical Venture Investments Ltd., a subsidiary of New Medical Technologies, of Basel, Switzerland.

Yorkton Securities Inc. is the lead underwriter for the offering, and BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., HSBC Securities Inc. and National Bank Financial Inc. also are underwriters.

ConjuChem Vice President of Corporate Development Queenie Jang said the company plans to use the proceeds from the planned IPO to fund clinical development programs for pipeline therapeutics.

ConjuChem¿s technological platform is focused on modifications of public-domain compounds through the creation of a drug affinity complex (DAC), an engineered construct that attaches a reactive chemical to a drug compound with a connector molecule, forming a therapeutic that can act independently in high local concentrations or bind to albumin in the bloodstream to form a systemic therapeutic. ¿It allows us to create a new drug at a lower risk and a lower cost and much quicker,¿ Jang said. ¿One of the values of the technology is that it has a broad application that can be applied to so many areas of medicine.¿

Another advantage of ConjuChem¿s technology platform, she said, is the extended half-life of many of the therapeutics the company focuses on. One of its lead therapeutics, a DAC based on an opioid for pain management, is an example, Jang said.

¿It¿s a peptide in the public domain, but the problem with it is that its half-life in man is minutes,¿ she said. ¿From a commercial point of view that¿s not much, but when we apply our DAC technology to it and administer it, we expect a half-life in man of up to 20 days. We could dose it once or twice a month, and that could have an application in pati ents with cancer.¿

The company is developing a broad platform of therapeutics that includes treatments for cancer, thrombosis and pain management.

Its anti-thrombosis therapeutic is aimed at preventing clotting in AV shunts, angioplasty and arterial grafts, and is undergoing Phase I/II testing. Jang said the company expects that trial to reach completion in mid-2001.

ConjuChem also is engaged in preclinical research on DACs for anti-pain therapeutics based on the opioid dinorphin, a diabetes therapeutic, an anti-angiogenic for oncologic indications, and an antiviral for respiratory infection treatment.

Jang said the company has four partnerships aimed at developing therapeutics for oncologic and antiviral applications. ConjuChem declined to specify which pharma or biotech companies it partners with, save to mention a March 1999 alliance with the Institut de Recherches Servier, the research and development arm of Servier Inc., of Paris, for the development of drugs for the prevention of cancer metastases.

That collaboration is aimed at creating a DAC that will to modify matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor compounds created by Servier.

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