By Randall Osborne

CuraGen Corp., a genomics company focused on therapeutic and agricultural products, raised $45.5 million in its initial public offering (IPO) of 3 million shares.

But whether that ought to raise expectations for the IPO market overall is an open question, said David Stone, analyst with Cowen & Co., of Boston.

"Any time a deal of that size gets done, it's positive news, but it really seems to be a company-specific phenomenon, which is where we've been for the past 18 months or so," Stone said.

CuraGen, based in New Haven, Conn., said two of its collaborators and shareholders — Biogen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., and Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco — along with the University of Florida Research Foundation Inc., in Gainesville, will purchase a total of 956,522 more shares at the $11.50-per-share offering price, for another $11 million.

CuraGen's stock (NASDAQ:CRGN) closed Wednesday at $12.937, up $1.437.

"Particular companies are being well received [for IPOs] on their merits," Stone said. "Selective deals have been getting done with style, while others have been turned back."

He said about a third of the stocks in his company's tracking universe are outperforming the market, and a background level of interest in the biotechnology sector continues, but the interest has not matured into a recognizable comeback.

"You'd have to see more of a pattern," Stone said.

CuraGen's drug discovery platform consists of three systems: GeneCalling, for gene expression analysis and discovery; PathCalling, for discovery of the roles of genes and the proteins they encode; and HitCalling, for the identification of small molecule drug candidates.

Its GeneScape bioinformatics system consists of Web-based project management, data analysis and visualization.

Last spring, CuraGen entered its first collaboration — a five-year, $25 million deal with Des Moines, Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., to identify genes responsible for superior performance in seeds. (See BioWorld Today, June 27, 1997, p. 1.)

Two more deals followed in November, when Biogen agreed to pay potentially more than $33.5 million for access to CuraGen's database and technology platform, and Genentech signed a similar agreement potentially worth more than $55 million. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 12, 1997 p. 1 and Nov. 25, 1997, p. 1.)

The IPO underwriters were Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, all of New York. *