By Charles Craig

Coulter Pharmaceuticals Inc. completed the first successful initial public offering (IPO) of 1997 in the biotechnology sector, raising $30 million to support its two anti-cancer programs.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company, which was a spin-off of Miami-based Coulter Corp., priced the 2.5 million-share IPO at $12, which was within the projected range of $12 to $14. The company's stock (NASDAQ:CLTR) ended Wednesday unchanged at $12.125. It has 10 million shares outstanding.

Coulter's strong performance may bode well for Portland, Ore.-based AntiViral Inc., which also accomplished a first for the sector in 1997 by filing for its IPO this week.

AntiViral, which has been in business since 1980, is developing antisense compounds and drug delivery systems.

It registered to sell 1.5 million units in a projected price range of $8 to $10 for gross proceeds of at least $12 million. The units consist of one share and one warrant for another share. Paulson Investment Co. Inc., of Portland, is the underwriter.

Despite a downturn in the market for biotechnology stocks in the second half of 1996, the 47 companies that held IPOs last year generated a record $1.5 billion, eclipsing previous record years in 1991 and 1992.

Coulter's two anticancer programs use radioactive monoclonal antibodies and modified cytotoxic compounds activated by tumor cells.

The monoclonal antibodies, called B-1, are most advanced with one drug in Phase II/III trials for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

As of Sept. 30, 1996, Coulter had $18.8 million in cash and reported a net loss of $10.8 million for the first nine months of the year.

Underwriters for the IPO were Hambrecht & Quist, of New York, Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., of Baltimore, and Pacific Growth Equities Inc., of San Francisco.

AntiVirals has been developing antisense drugs, which it calls Neu-Genes, since the 1980s. The most advanced candidate is a compound for treatment of restenosis.

Antisense drugs are designed to block specific messenger RNA molecules, shutting down a targeted gene's production of a disease-causing protein.

The company also is developing a drug delivery system, called Cytoporter, for use with antisense and other drugs. The technology enables therapeutic molecules to slip through the lipid barrier of cellular membranes to get to the interior of cells.

AntiVirals' first clinical trials using Cytoporter-
delivered drugs are expected to begin this year with paclitaxel, an anticancer drug, and cyclosporin, an immune system suppressant.

As of Sept. 30, 1996, AntiVirals had $3.45 million in cash and reported a net loss of $1.4 million for the first nine months of the year. The company has 8.7 million shares outstanding.

Coulter, in addition to its radioactive antibodies, has developed what it calls tumor-activated peptide pro-drugs, which are chemical modifications of cytotoxic drugs, such as doxorubicin. The pro-drug is inactive until it reaches the tumor site where it is activated by enzymes or other chemicals produced by the cancer cells.

The TAP pro-drugs are designed to make cytotoxic agents more effective in killing cancer cells without destroying healthy ones. Clinical trials of a TAP pro-drug version of doxorubicin are expected to begin in early 1998. *