By Mary Welch

Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. completed a $10 million private placement that provides enough cash to run the company for another year and continue development of its arid regulated gene expression technology (ARGENT) for orally active protein delivery.

Jay LaMarche, vice president and chief financial officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Ariad, said funds will boost other gene-related research projects.

"If those tests are successful, then we'll go on to planned clinical trials," LaMarche told BioWorld Today.

In the financing, 2.5 million shares were placed with institutional investors by BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, of San Francisco.

Charles Cabot, chief operating officer of Ariad, said investors preferred to remain unidentified until registration papers are filed.

"One of our goals was to attract the attention of biotech institutional investors, and with this placement we have done that," he added.

Ariad is focused on the discovery and development of orally administered, small molecule drugs that block cells' signaling pathways, which play a crucial role in the advent of several diseases, including osteoporosis and immune-related disorders.

ARGENT is therapeutic protein delivery system based on transcription factors, the intracellular signaling molecules that activate gene expression.

Ariad collaborated last year with Frankfurt, Germany-based Hoechst Marion Roussel to develop an $85 million functional genomics plant over the next five years, to be housed at Ariad's home offices. The companies will share expenses equally, but Hoechst made equity payments of almost $50 million. (See BioWorld Today, March 7, 1997, p. 1.)

"We've hit the first-year mark, which was basically getting the facility up and running and hiring people," Cabot said. "Our goal was to hire 45 people and we're there. Now, we want to build the staff a little more — to about 60 — and then find genes critical to our five critical areas." Those areas are osteoporosis and other bone diseases; and neurodegenerative, immune system and inflammatory disorders.

Ariad's stock (NASDAQ:ARIA) closed Wednesday at $4.75, up $0.25. *