By Randall Osborne

Genzyme Molecular Oncology (GMO) filed for an initial public offering (IPO) of 3 million shares at a price between $9 and $11 per share, which — at the middle range of $10 per share — would raise $30 million.

GMO, a division of Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme Corp., has granted underwriters a 30-day option to buy up to 450,000 more shares to cover overallotments.

Focused on gene-based approaches to cancer therapy and diagnosis, GMO collaborated with Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J., in a deal worth up to $80 million, combining GMO's lipid delivery system with Schering-Plough's tumor suppressor gene, p53. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 6, 1998, p. 1.)

Previous gene delivery attempts, which inject a viral gene therapy vector into a tumor or near it, have proven ineffective when the tumor can't be reached or when the cancer has spread. With lipid delivery, gene therapy takes an intravenous route.

GMO also has a partnership with Merck & Co., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., giving Merck nonexclusive rights to methods of screening small molecules for action against the MDM2 protein, which can prevent p53 from activating genes that control cell division and carrying out its tumor-suppressing function. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 4, 1998, p. 1.)

With Cambridge, U.K.-based Hexagen plc, GMO began a genomics collaboration on Type II diabetes last month. The deal is GMO's fourth based on its Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) technology. For Hexagen, GMO expects to discover susceptibility genes for diabetes and provide gene expression information for genes associated with Type II diabetes. (See BioWorld Today, March 5, 1998, p. 1.)

SAGE is a method of quantitating messenger RNA levels in a cell. Developed by Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, it was acquired by Genzyme in the purchase of licensee Pharmagenics Inc., of Allendale, N.J.

In April 1997, GMO filed for an IPO that was expected to raise $35 million. It was never completed. Last fall, the company raised $20 million in a private placement to fund operations. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 8, 1997, p. 1.)

The currently proposed IPO is co-managed by Paine Webber Inc., Cowen & Co., and Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., all of New York. *