By Randall Osborne

Working to develop adenoviral delivery to the heart of a gene that induces the body to build its own arterial bypasses, GenVec Inc. filed for an initial public offering (IPO) of 2.5 million shares at between $11 and $13 per share.

At the middle range of $12 per share, the offering would raise $30 million for the Rockville, Md.-based company.

GenVec's lead product is BioBypass, a modified, replication-deficient adenoviral vector that delivers the vascular endothelial growth factor gene VEGF 121 into heart muscle cells.

The gene expresses the VEGF protein, which acts on endothelial cells to promote blood vessels to redirect blood around heart blockages, thus providing oxygen and nutrients to ischemic tissues.

GenVec expects BioBypass to be used alone or with existing therapies (such as bypass surgery or angioplasty) for treating coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.

The company, which has said BioBypass may reach human pivotal trials by 1999 or 2000, is developing the technology in a partnership valued at potentially more than $100 million with the Parke-Davis division of Warner-Lambert Co., of Morris Plains, N.J. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 10, 1997, p. 1.)

Scios Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., licensed gene-transfer applications of VEGF 121 to GenVec in June 1996.

GenVec is working on other product candidates in the areas of vascular damage, oncology and neurology. Last month, the company agreed to collaborate with Varian Biosynergy Inc., a subsidiary of Varian Associates, of Palo Alto, Calif., on research and development of projects that include radiation treatment with gene therapy for cancer. Varian will develop equipment and software, with GenVec developing the gene-based pharmaceutical products.

As part of the IPO, GenVec granted to underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to 375,000 more shares to cover over-allotments. The IPO will be managed by BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, of San Francisco; J.P. Morgan & Co., of New York; and Salomon Smith Barney, of Brooklyn, N.Y. *