By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Riding high on the crest of a biotech wave, Dendreon Corp. registered in March for an initial public offering (IPO) to raise $100 million, but the company slid more humbly ashore with a pricing that garnered $45 million - still a respectable haul, during times of more-level industry waters.

Dendreon, of Seattle, sold 4.5 million shares at $10 per share, with an overallotment option for underwriters of 675,000 more. Prudential Vector Healthcare Group, a unit of Prudential Securities, acted as lead manager for the IPO. Co-managers were SG Cowen Securities Corp. and Pacific Growth Equities Inc.

Dendreon's stock (NASDAQ:DNDN) closed Friday at $9.687, down 31.25 cents per share.

When the company registered in the spring, it did not say how many shares it planned to offer, or at what price, but said it intended to use the proceeds to develop therapeutic vaccine products and increase its capacity for dendritic cell processing and antigen manufacturing.

Biotech stocks were booming, just before President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a joint statement on human genome data that hit genomics companies hard and laid low the biotech market overall. Since then, volatility attributed to various factors has reigned.

A spokesperson for the company said she could not comment on the IPO because of the Securities and Exchange Commission's "quiet period" rule. The prospectus filed as part of the IPO says Dendreon has 20.75 million shares outstanding after the offering, which includes a purchase of 384,615 shares by Tokyo-based Kirin Brewery Co. Ltd., Dendreon's partner in Asia.

Dendreon, founded in 1992, uses dendritic cells - specialized immune cells that identify foreign proteins and spur the making of killer T cells in the body - in designing such products as Provenge, an antigen-loaded therapy for metastatic prostate cancer.

A recombinant prostate tumor vaccine activates a patient's dendritic cells to produce the immune response to a prostate-specific antigen called prostate alkaline phosphatase (found in most prostate-cancer cells). Then, the dendritic cells are returned to the patient's bloodstream.

The company began Phase III trials for Provenge at the start of this year in patients who failed hormone therapy and are without pain from the cancer. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 27, 2000, p. 1.)

At the start of the trials, the company, lacking a partner in the U.S., had completed a $17 million Series E financing to help the studies along. Dendreon also is conducting Phase II trials for Mylovenge, its therapeutic vaccine for B-cell malignancies, including multiple myeloma.