By Mary Welch

While biotechnology stocks have been riding a roller coaster lately, Aclara BioSciences Inc.'s rode straight up on its first day on the Nasdaq National Market.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:ACLA) opened at $21 Tuesday, only to close later at $32.125, up almost 53 percent.

The Mountain View, Calif., company, which offered 9 million shares, raised $189 million, which is considerably more than the $97.7 million the company anticipated when it filed on Jan. 23. The company plans to use the money for research and development activities, as well as possible acquisitions or investments in technology. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 24, 2000, p. 1.)

The offering was the second largest this year as Diversa Corp., of San Diego, raised $200.1 million by selling 8.34 million shares at $24 each, and ahead of the $137 million raised by Sequenom Inc., of San Diego. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 15, 2000, p. 1; and Feb. 2, 2000, p.1.)

In addition to the 9 million shares, Aclara offered the underwriters an overallotment option of 1.35 million shares. If the overallotment is fully exercised, the company would have raised $207.35 million. The company has 31.1 million shares outstanding. Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown and Warburg Dillon Read LLC, both of New York, were the lead underwriters, and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, of Minneapolis, acted as co-manager.

"The market varies from day to day and so do the success stories," said Alex Zisson, senior analyst of Chase H&Q, of New York. "Every day people are asking if the window of opportunity is still opened. It's too early to tell."

A spin-off from Soane Technologies Inc., of Hayward, Calif., Aclara was incorporated in 1995 and changed its name in 1998. In its filing, Aclara claims it is the only "microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip, company with access to the wide range of technology and intellectual property required to broadly address the genomics and pharmaceutical drug-screening markets."

The company's designs for microfluidic chips will enable researchers to perform chemical and biological measurements rapidly in a miniaturized automated format.