By Lisa Seachrist
WASHINGTON — Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. completed a single investor, private placement with BB Biotech worth $8.8 million. It is the second investment the Switzerland-based firm has made in Alexion in six months.
BB Biotech, of Schauffhausen, bought 670,000 shares of Alexion at $13.13 per share for a total of $8.827 million. The company's stock (NASDAQ:ALXN) closed Friday at $15, up $0.875.
Alexion, of New Haven, Conn., plans to use the funds to further its clinical development of products for the prevention of tissue damage during cardiopulmonary bypass surgery and treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythmatosus and multiple sclerosis.
"I am very encouraged by BB Biotech's investment in [Alexion]," said Leonard Bell, president and CEO of Alexion. "They have been very good partners for us. And what I think is part of the attraction for them, is that we did what we said we were going to do."
When BB Biotech, the largest strictly biotech investing company in the world, bought $10 million in convertible stock from the company in September 1997, Alexion told the investor the company would complete the first Phase II trial of its cardiopulmonary bypass drug and submit three investigational new drug applications (INDs) for lupus, arthritis and multiple sclerosis in six months. Bell said his company delivered on all those promises.
"This is a relatively exciting time at Alexion," Bell said. "We've got four clinical development programs with three product candidates. And we are managing our clinical programs as tightly as people manage investment portfolios."
BB Biotech chose to convert the stock into common stock Wednesday, and in conjunction with that conversion bought the additional shares. The firm now owns approximately 16.5 percent of Alexion.
"What we have seen is that this company has delivered on all of its promises it made in September," said Anders Hove, partner with Bellevue Management of Zug, Switzerland, the management company for BB Biotech. "And we believe very much in the areas that they are active in. Their products could well meet important medical needs."
Alexion is developing two C5 complement inhibitors. C5 complement is at the midpoint of the complement cascade and the company is attempting to block this molecule in order to prevent damaging inflammation. Alexion's lead product, 5G1.1-SC is a humanized, single chain, short-acting antibody designed to stall inflammation during acute heart procedures like bypass surgery. The company completed a Phase IIa study of this drug candidate and will begin a larger study of the product later this year.
In addition to 5G1.1-SC, Alexion has filed INDs and started initial clinical trials of 5G1.1, a longer acting, double chain, humanized antibody, in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The company also filed an IND last month for MP4, a product to fight multiple sclerosis. MP4 is the lead product candidate in the company's Apogen program. Apogens are highly selective, specific recombinant antigens designed to induce auto-reactive, disease-causing T cells to undergo apoptosis, programmed cell death. Animal studies have shown that MP4 is effective in preventing neurological disease and ameliorating established disease in animal models.
Alexion's third technology, its UniGraft program, focuses on developing transgenic animal organ products designed for transplantation into humans without clinical rejection. The company is developing UniGraft organ products in collaboration with United States Surgical Corp., of North Haven, Conn.
Alexion's current cash on hand will be approximately $45 million following completion of the stock sale to BB Biotech. The company's burn rate this year is about $10 million, Bell told BioWorld Today. *