By Matthew Willett

Coulter Pharmaceutical Inc. raised about $35.8 million through the private placement of more than 1.65 million shares with institutional investors.

The stock sold at $21.625 per share, a negotiated discount. Coulter's stock (NASDAQ:CLTR) fell 31 cents Monday to close at $25.187. The investors were not disclosed.

Company officials said the move bolstered the balance sheet, paving the way for the market launch of the company's lead product, Bexxar, sometime next year.

"It was a good financing for us because it brings a group of qualified investors who've had an interest in building a position at Coulter, and this allows them to do that," said William Harris, the company's chief financial officer. "It also allows us to strengthen our balance sheet, and this financing is really geared toward increasing pre-commercialization expenses for Bexxar as well as research and development and staffing."

Pacific Growth Equities Inc., of San Francisco, served as placement agent for the transaction.

The company's lead product, a monoclonal antibody conjugated into a radioisotope called Bexxar, completed a Phase III trial for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the company said it is in the final stages of preparing a biologics license application for seeking FDA approval.

"We haven't come out and given a filing timeline yet, but obviously we've been working with the FDA, and we're making good progress and we believe we've received all the feedback we'll need," Harris said.

The company took the compound through clinical trials in collaboration with SmithKline Beecham, of Philadelphia, though Coulter regained commercialization rights to the drug outside the U.S. from SB in April. (See BioWorld Today, April 27, 2000, p. 1.)

Trials for Bexxar are ongoing, and include a Phase II study for first or second relapsed indolent B-cell lymphomas, a Phase I study for intermediate and high-risk B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia and an open-label expanded access study of Bexxar in chemotherapy-relapsed/refractory low-grade or transformed low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"The financing really provides us some balance sheet flexibility," Harris said. "As of June 30 we had about $62 million, and this financing brings us to the mid- $90s, so it gives us a little bit of breathing room to get us through the regulatory process in anticipation of the commercial launch of Bexxar. It's anticipated to take us well through the product launch."

Harris added the financing could be applied to funding development of it's tumor-activated peptide platform prodrug, doxorubicin. He said the company plans to move the chemotherapeutic compound into clinical trials sometime next year.

This financing is the sixth for the South San Francisco-based company. Its seed financing in 1995 was $6 million. Since then, the company has raised $171.5 million through the sale of convertible preferred stock and more than 8 million shares of common stock to the public.

The company had 17.1 million shares outstanding as of July 31. The new financing would bring the outstanding amount up to about 18.76 million shares.

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