By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

Neurochem Inc. has filed with Canadian regulatory authorities for an initial public offering to begin trading on Canadian markets. The company is looking to the public markets to raise funds for pivotal clinical trials of its lead product, Fibrillex.

The St. Laurent, Quebec-based company didn't detail in its preliminary prospectus the number of shares it intended to offer or the priced it hoped to command with the offering. However, one of its investors, BioCapital Investments, of Montreal, indicated in a press release that Neurochem was looking to raise a maximum of C$25 million (US$16.91 million).

The agents connected with the offering are Loewen, Ondaatje, McCutcheon Ltd. and Canaccord Capital Corp. Neurochem has filed its offering in the provinces of Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

Neurochem specializes in developing drugs for diseases associated with amyloidosis, the extracellular and intracellular deposits of insoluble fibrillar (amyloid) proteins. These deposits can become so severe they destroy organs. Amyloidosis has been observed in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, the cerebral vasculature of patients with certain forms of hemorrhagic stroke and the islet cells of Type II diabetics. Certain systemic diseases can cause amyloidosis in the liver, spleen, kidney and heart.

Amyloid deposits are complex structures where amyloid fibrils are intertwined with several other proteins. Highly sulfated proteoglycans always are included in the mix. Neurochem's approach to treating such conditions has been to develop small organic mimics of one of the key proteoglycan components, glycosaminoglycan (GAG.) These GAG mimetics compete with the highly sulfated proteoglycans to bind to amyloid and interrupt the process of fibril formation.

The company's lead product is Fibrillex, a GAG mimetic designed to halt secondary amyloidosis as a result of systemic diseases. The company has been granted an orphan drug designation in the U.S. and is scheduled to enter a pivotal Phase II/III trial sometime in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

In addition, Neurochem has a GAG mimetic for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease called Alzhemed. This drug candidate and its analogues contain chemical moieties to permit the drug to traverse the blood-brain barrier. This drug and its analogues are the subject of a collaboration with H. Lundbeck A/S, of Denmark. Alzhemed is scheduled to enter Phase II clinical trials in mid-2001. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 30, 1999, p.1.)

Cerebril is the company's drug candidate for hemorrhagic stroke caused by cerebral amyloid angiopathy. The drug has been through Phase I clinical trials and is expected to enter Phase II trials in the beginning of 2001.

Neurochem has four drug candidates in preclinical testing for the treatment of Type II diabetes. The company expects to select a lead molecule to take into Phase I trials sometime in 2001.

The company currently employs 49 people. As of March 31, it had C$2.4 million (US$1.62 million) in cash and cash equivalents.

Principal shareholders include Societe Innovatech du Grand Montreal; Sofinov, Societe Financiere d'Innovation Inc.; and Fonds de Solidarite des Travailleurs du Quebec. Each is based in Montreal and owns between 15 to 16 percent of the company. Atlas Venture Fund II LP, of Boston, owns 11.8 percent.