HAMBURG, Germany - Actelion Ltd., of Allschwil, Switzerland, has filed for an initial public offering at the SWX New Market segment of the Swiss SWX Exchange. The company will offer 1 million shares; another 100,000 shares will be offered as a greenshoe. Trading will start on April 6.

Unusual for a biotech start-up going public, Actelion has two products for three indications ready for Phase III clinical testing. The company specializes in cardiovascular diseases and might start making money by 2002 if clinical trials progress as scheduled and successfully, it said.

Among the products is tezosentan, a heart failure drug for intravenous application in patients with acute cardiac insufficiency. Four trials in Europe, Israel and the U.S. are scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2001. Phase II trials already demonstrated a positive effect on cardiac output in patients suffering from acute heart failure. Last month, Actelion signed a $75 million co-promotion deal for the drug with Genentech, Inc., of South San Francisco, Calif. "We need the money to complete the development of our products to market maturity, and for further research into endothelium," Peter Herrmann, head of Actelion's international registration office, told BioWorld International.

The second product to enter Phase III studies is Bosentan, an orally active small molecule to treat pulmonary hypertension (PHT) and congestive heart failure (CHF). PHT is a rare disease where the blood pressure in the vascular system of the lung is so high that every physical effort becomes extremely difficult. Around 100,000 patients, mostly young persons, suffer from the life-threatening condition, and Actelion hopes for orphan drug status as soon as trials end in the second quarter of 2001. "For CHF treatment, 1,500 patients in more than 200 centers will be recruited later this year; studies might be terminated by the end of 2001," Herrmann said.

Both drugs target the endothelium, a single layer of cells forming an interface between blood and the surrounding tissue maintaining the tone of the blood vessels. It is a target of many hormones and produces active compounds like endothelin, one of the most powerful constrictors of blood vessels. Abnormal stimulation of endothelin plays a major role in the progression of several diseases of the heart, and both compounds developed by Actelion are potent inhibitors of endothelin.

Actelion was founded in 1997 by scientists at Roche, when Roche decided to reorganize its cardiovascular research following the acquisition of the German pharma company Boehringer Mannheim. Roche holds the patents on both compounds and will receive royalties from sales if the drugs are approved. Actelion estimates revenues of between SFr 200 and SFr 600 a year. Actelion Pharmaceuticals AG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Actelion Ltd., which in addition holds 70 percent of Hesperion, a clinical research organization, of Allschwil, Switzerland, which will handle the operative business of the clinical trials.

Following the IPO, 20 percent of the shares will float free while the remaining 80 percent are held by management and investors. The price range has been set between SFr 230 and SFr 270 a share.

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