By Randall Osborne

As one genomics company, Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, completed a public offering of 1.4 million shares for $11.2 million to support gene therapy for AIDS and other diseases, another genomics company, CuraGen Corp., registered for an initial public offering (IPO), which would raise funds for its bioinformatics-based drug discovery.

Boulder, Colo.-based Ribozyme's technology controls gene expression by using ribozymes, which are RNA molecules that act as enzymes. The company is collaborating with Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif., for products targeted at viruses, cancer, restenosis and ocular diseases. In March, the two companies began a Phase I/IIa gene therapy trial in HIV patients.

Ribozyme's pact with Chiron began in 1994 and was expanded in 1996.

Another alliance is with Schering A.G., of Berlin. That partnership uses ribozymes for therapeutic agents and for the purpose of validating therapeutic targets. From expressed gene sequences — mRNA — provided by Schering, Ribozyme synthesizes ribozymes to block the mRNA from making a protein.

Ribozyme also has collaborations with Pharmacia Biotech A.B., of Uppsala, Sweden, for the production-scale synthesis of RNA and chimeric oligonucleotides; ALZA Corp., of Palo Alto, Calif., for ribozyme delivery; Protogene Laboratories, also of Palo Alto, to develop automated machines for high-throughput non-DNA nucleic acid synthesis, IntelliGene Corp., for development of ribozyme-based diagnostics, and DowElanco, of Indianapolis, for agricultural applications.

Montgomery Securities, of San Francisco, managed the public offering. As of June 30, Ribozyme had $12.47 million in cash, and reported a net loss of $6.13 million for the first six months of 1997.

Ribozyme's offering was priced at $8 per share. Its stock (NASDAQ:RZYM) closed Friday at $8.50, down $0.50.

New Haven, Conn.-based CuraGen bases its gene discovery process on linking isolated genes into functional, biological pathways that may present new targets for drug discovery.

CuraGen's bioinformatics platform includes several systems. One is geared toward gene discovery, another toward finding biological pathways, and a third toward what the company calls "multiplexed" drug discovery.

Like Ribozyme, CuraGen has an agricultural deal. In May, the company entered into a five-year pact worth up to $26 million with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., of Des Moines, Iowa.

For Pioneer, CuraGen will use its genomics analysis techniques to identify specific genes responsible for superior performance in seeds. Pioneer has an option to end the deal with three months' notice if no genes of interest to Pioneer have been identified by Nov. 16, 1998.

Also collaborating with CuraGen are Biogen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., Genentech Inc., of San Francisco, and Glaxo Wellcome P.L.C., of London.

Underwriters for CuraGen's IPO are Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., Lehman Brothers, and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, all of New York.

As of June 30, CuraGen had $21.27 million in cash, with a net loss of $1.65 million for the first six months of 1997.

In its IPO prospectus, CuraGen did not estimate the number of shares to be sold nor did it indicate a price range. *

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