Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. hopes to raise more than $90 millionthrough a public offering to help fund continued development of itsprograms.

Vertex, of Cambridge, Mass., proposed the sale of three millionshares. Its stock, trading at $33 last Wednesday when the offeringwas proposed, closed Monday at $30.50, down 50 cents. At that pricethe company would gross $91.5 million.

Underwriters Cowen & Co., of New York; Robertson, Stephens &Co., of San Francisco; and Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., of New York,have an option to purchase another 450,000 shares.

Vertex currently has about 17.6 million shares outstanding, and onMarch 31, 1996, had $77.3 million in cash. The company's net losswas about $7.5 million in the first quarter.

When Vertex puts out its second quarter numbers they will show aone-time charge of $15 million related to HIV protease inhibitorpatent rights it acquired from G.D. Searle & Co., of Skokie, Ill.Vertex partner Glaxo Wellcome plc paid Searle another $10 million,and separately purchased $5 million in Vertex stock. (See BioWorldToday, July 2, 1996, p. 3.)

Vertex and Glaxo, of London, are collaborating on development ofVX-478, a second-generation protease inhibitor that is in Phase I/IItrials for HIV. Analysts have said the compound potentially has anumber of advantages over the first wave of the drug class. Vertexhas a Far East partnership on VX-478 with Kissei Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd., of Japan.

The final cohort of patients from the Phase I/II trial is being treated.Glaxo then will run some Phase II studies before conducting pivotalstudies.

That program, however, is well funded. So Vertex is doing thefinancing to advance its unpartnered or partly partnered products.

Vertex is moving two compounds forward in the area of cancermultidrug resistance. Vertex just began a Phase II trial of VX-710 incombination with doxorubicin in liver cancer patients. The drug isbeing developed to resensitize tumor cells to chemotherapeuticagents. Vertex also has an oral multidrug resistance candidate, VX-853, in Phase I studies.

Vertex estimated it is six to 12 months away from selectingcandidates to take into preclinical development in two programs. Onefocuses on inhibitors of interleukin-1 converting enzyme, whichcould be useful in inflammatory conditions. The second, forautoimmune diseases, focuses on inhibiting IMPDH, or the enzymeinosine monophosphate dehydrogenase. Vertex has other programsearlier in development.

Two partners are helping Vertex in the development of VX-366,which recently completed a pilot Phase II study. The drug is designedto boost production of hemoglobin F. Partners are Alpha TherapeuticCorp., of Los Angeles, and a subsidiary of BASF AG, ofLudwigshafen, Germany.

Vertex's last public offering involved the sale of three million sharesat $18 each early in 1994. Proceeds totaled $62.1 million afteroverallotment options were exercised. Since then Vertex completed a$15 million private placement. n

-- Jim Shrine

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.