By Debbie Strickland

LXR Biotechnology Inc. has more than tripled its available cash from the $4.8 million recorded Sept. 30 by closing a $10 million placement led by Evanston, Ill.-based Grace Brothers Ltd.

The common shares sold for $1.75 each, netting the company $9.38 million to support its apoptosis-centered research and development and provide working capital.

LXR — whose most advanced products combat apoptosis, or programmed cell death — now has 27 million shares outstanding.

With a pair of cardiology products on track for FDA review in 1999-2000, plus a string of recent good news from the labs, LXR ought to be commanding respect in the industry's financial circles, said the firm's chairman and CEO, David Tomei.

Instead, the Richmond, Calif., company's stock has been hovering around $2 a share, though a core of investors has continued to support the firm's apoptosis-based research and development via private placements.

"LXR is basically doing over the next year or two what we promised investors we would do," he said. "I think we have been quiet and have not received the attention that many other companies have received on Wall Street."

The lead product at LXR is HK-Cardiosol, a heart-transplant preservation product now embarking a pivotal clinical study.

"If everything goes well and the data we obtain are comparable to data we already have from an earlier, remarkable trial on 20 patients, we could file a 510(k) application by about the second quarter of 1999," said Tomei.

A full 100 percent of the 20 patients who received Cardiosol-treated hearts in a University of Wisconsin study survived. The formulation has since been tweaked at LXR, with the addition of an apoptosis-suppressing species of polyethylene glycol.

The company is preparing an investigational new drug application for a related product, CP-Cardiosol, for use in cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. A Phase I/II study likely will take six to eight months, with the initiation of a pivotal Phase III trial possible as early as the third quarter of 1999.

Results of a 117-patient CP-Cardiosol trial using the earlier formulation were "clearly encouraging," Tomei said.

Other LXR product candidates include Lexirin, designed to treat AIDS-related diarrhea and the first investigational drug to be discovered based upon apoptosis modulation activity; Elirex, which is used to treat heart attacks; and Maspin, for the suppression of tumor metastasis in breast, prostate and intestinal cancer.

As a byproduct of its research programs, LXR also has developed a new technology that could determine the sex of a fetus by DNA-detection in the mother's urine. According to the company, as a fetus develops, certain cells die from apoptosis as a normal part of development, causing fetal DNA to be shed into the mother's bloodstream. Any Y chromosome found in the urine would indicate that the fetus is male.

In another offshoot, Norwalk, Conn.-based Perkin-Elmer Corp., is using LXR's scanning laser digital imaging technology to develop instruments capable of rapidly imaging fluorescent-tagged biomolecules over wide surface areas such as microscope slides with high resolution.

Shares in LXR Biotechnology (AMEX:LXR) closed Wednesday at $2.313, down $0.063. The firm reported a net loss of $6.3 million for the first nine months of 1997. *