By Randall Osborne

Trimeris Inc. filed a registration to offer up to 2.5 million shares of common stock, at a maximum offering price of $13.09 per share, which would raise $32.7 million ¿ almost as much as when the company went public a year and a half ago.

The company¿s shares (NASDAQ:TRMS) closed Wednesday at $11.625, down $0.875.

Durham, N.C.-based Trimeris granted underwriters an overallotment option of 375,000 shares, bringing the potential maximum aggregate proceeds of the offering to $37.6 million.

Funds from the offering will be spent to advance T-20 (pentafuside) and T-1249, as well as other research and development, and will be used as working capital and for general corporate purposes, the company said.

T-20, a peptide, is Trimeris¿ lead candidate. It works against HIV by keeping the virus from attaching to cells, rather than by fighting the virus after it has invaded. In a Phase II clinical study completed in January, 78 HIV-infected adults were enrolled and showed a significant, clinically relevant reduction in viral road.

The median maximum reduction in viral load ranged from 69 percent to 97 percent across the treatment groups, with twice-daily subcutaneous injection achieving consistent levels of the drug in patients¿ blood.

On average, the patients had used nine approved HIV drugs that no longer worked in suppressing their HIV viral loads below detectable levels.

The drug, which has been granted fast-track status by the FDA, is administered automatically by way of a pump inside a device worn on the patient¿s belt or waistband. Trimeris said in its prospectus for the offering that it is conducting two other clinical studies of T-20, and expects to begin a pivotal trial late in the fourth quarter of this year.

T-1249, the second peptide in the company¿s class of HIV fusion inhibitors, has shown suppression in animal models. Trimeris has filed an investigational new drug application regarding T-1249 with the FDA, and expects to begin a 14-day Phase I clinical trial in up to 60 HIV-infected patients in the second quarter of 1999.

Trimeris, founded in 1993, raised $33 million when it went public. After the offering, the company will have 13 million shares outstanding. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 10, 1997, p. 1.)

Managing underwriters for the more recent offering will be ING Baring Furman Selz LLC, of New York; BancBoston Robertson Stephens Inc., of San Francisco; and SG Cowen Securities Corp., of New York. n