By Lisa Seachrist
Less than one week after raising $48 million privately and declining to speculate about an initial public offering, Third Wave Technologies Inc. announced its intentions to go public by raising $100 million.
The move comes two months after Madison, Wis.-based Third Wave and Foster City, Calif.-based PE BioSystems scuttled plans to merge because federal regulators couldn't approve the deal fast enough. With the private financing and the expected public financing, Third Wave seeks to make its Invader technology the technology of choice for genetic variation analysis.
In its prospectus, Third Wave didn't specify the exact number of shares it intended to offer or the price range it was seeking. The company said the money would be used to support general corporate purposes, including working capital, research and development activities and potential acquisitions.
Lehman Brothers Inc., of New York, is serving as the lead underwriter for the offering. The other underwriters are Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc., CIBC World Markets Corp., and Fidelity Capital Markets, all of New York; and Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc, of Milwaukee.
As of June 30, the company had $7.132 million in cash and cash equivalents. That figure doesn't include the $48 million raised last week. (See BioWorld Today, July 27, 2000, p. 1.)
With the recent completion of the sequencing of the human genome, the field of genomics is increasingly focused on the identification and analysis of the estimated 3 million to 10 million genetic variations in the human genome. These variations are the origin of most of the differences between individuals, including disease predisposition and response to pharmaceuticals. Much of the emphasis on these variations has been on the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) scattered throughout the genome; however, other individual variations may also have medical relevance.
Third Wave's Invader technology offers several advantages over conventional genetic analysis technologies because it eliminates the need to copy the genetic sample using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). By avoiding the cumbersome and time-consuming amplification and gel electrophoresis step, users save money and time while reducing the risk of sample contamination.
The Invader technology employs two nucleic acid probes, one of which is recognized and cleaved by an enzyme, to identify a specific sequence of DNA or RNA. The presence of the released cleaved probe then can be measured using existing readout devices such as microtiter plate readers, mass spectrometry and DNA chips.
Third Wave markets three sets of analyte-specific reagents and assay controls based on Invader technology for use in the clinical environment, including reagents specific for mutations in factor V (Leiden), factor II (prothrombin), and methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase genes. Under development are other analyte-specific reagents for infectious disease, inherited disease and therapeutic selection.
The company has collaborations and customer relationships with institutions including Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland; SmithKline Beecham Biologicals, of London; Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J. (now part of Pfizer Inc.); Stanford University, in Stanford, Calif.; and the Sanger Centre, in Cambridge, UK. Despite abandoning merger plans, PE Biosystems and Third Wave still install their detection systems as part of deals with other companies. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 25, 2000, p.1; and May 30, 2000, p. 1.)
In other news, the company also announced it was opening the world's first fully automated development and production facility to produce turnkey SNP detection and quantification products or assays. This facility, in Sun Prairie, Wis., is capable of producing billions of genotyping tests for more than 100,000 novel SNPs annually.