By Randall Osborne

Triangle Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it plans a public offering of 3 million shares, which would raise $48.5 million for the company based on Tuesday's closing price (NASDAQ:VIRS) of $16.187, down $0.75.

With a portfolio of seven licensed drug candidates, Durham, N.C.-based Triangle is focused particularly on therapies for HIV and hepatitis B. Four of the seven compounds are reverse transcriptase inhibitors, two targeted against HIV and two designed to treat both HIV and hepatitis B.

Triangle also has rights to prospective treatments of resistant herpes and herpes labialis; brain, lung and other cancers; and psoriasis.

Last fall, the company reported data from an ongoing Phase I/II study evaluating its lead product, MKC-442, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor for AIDS. With more than 40 patients treated, the patients in the highest dose category — 750 mg twice per day — showed a greater than 90 percent decrease in HIV in the blood after one week taking MKC-442 alone.

The decreases were followed by gradual rises in the viral load, which is typical of drugs in that class. Triangle planned pivotal trials to evaluate MKC-442 in combination with other antiretrovirals.

Formed in 1995 by former employees of Wellcome plc before its merger with fellow London-based drug maker Glaxo plc, Triangle went public in 1996 and raised almost $30 million in a private placement last June. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 4, 1996, p. 1, and June 10, 1997, p. 1.)

Last July, the company acquired Avid Corp., a Philadelphia-based biotechnology firm, for $1.25 million in cash and 400,000 shares of Triangle common stock. Triangle added to its portfolio Avid's lead drug candidate, the protease inhibitor DMP-450, licensed from DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals Co., of Wilmington, Del. (See BioWorld Today, July 2, 1997, p. 1.)

The proposed public offering includes an overallotment option of 450,000 shares for the underwriters: SBC Warburg Dillon Read and Bears, Stearns & Co., both of New York; and Vector Securities International Inc., of Deerfield, Ill.

As of Dec. 31, 1997, Triangle had $57.7 million in cash, with a net loss of $37.6 million for the year. *