Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., spun off from Chiron Corp. in 1992,registered for an initial public offering of 2.5 million shares expectedto be priced between $11 and $13 each.

The Richmond, Calif., company focuses on defining the function ofmutated genes that cause cancer, and developing therapies to reversethe mutation or kill the cancer cells. Onyx already has significantcollaborations in place with Warner-Lambert Co. and Bayer Corp., aswell as a feasibility study ongoing with Eli Lilly and Co.

Onyx said Tuesday it began its first human studies, a Phase I trial of agenetically engineered adenovirus called ONYX-015 that targetstumor cells deficient in p53 tumor suppressor activity. That programis unpartnered.

Onyx and Bayer, of Westhaven, Conn., agreed to a five-year deal in1994 that's potentially worth $75 million to Onyx. The companiesare trying to discover small molecules that inhibit ras intracellularsignaling pathways and curb the growth of cancer cells. (SeeBioWorld Today, May 4, 1994, p.1.)

Warner-Lambert, of Morris Plains, N.J., and Onyx signed a three-year deal in 1995 in the area of cell cycle regulation. They hope todiscover molecules that inhibit misregulated kinase activities in cells.(See BioWorld Today, May 17, 1995, p.1.)

The deal signed last May with Lilly, of Indianapolis, involves a one-year feasibility study centered around identifying proteins thatinteract with the BRCA1 gene. Discussions to extend that agreementare ongoing.

Chiron, of Emeryville, Calif., helped form Onyx when it put up $4million in services, equipment, facilities use and cash, as well astechnology license, for 42.8 percent of the new company. Another42.8 percent was held initially by Avalon Ventures, of La Jolla,Calif.; Institutional Venture Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif.; J.HWhitney & Co., of New York; and Kleiner Perkins Caufield andByers, of Menlo Park. The company's only round of privatefinancing, in June 1993, brought in $12.2 million.

After the offering Onyx will have just under 9 million sharesoutstanding. That doesn't include employee options on 878,000shares that can be exercised at an average price of 91 cents each.Underwriters Montgomery Securities, of San Francisco, and UBSSecurities LLC, of New York, have an overallotment option onanother 375,000 shares.

Since its February 1992 inception Onyx had a net loss of $21.2million, including a 1995 loss of $8.4 million. In the same periodrevenues totaled $18.4 million. Onyx had about $12.5 million in cashand equivalents at the end of 1995.

Post-offering Chiron will be the largest shareholder, with a 15.6percent stake. Other significant shareholders are Bayer (10.5percent), Institutional Venture Partners (9.1 percent), Kleiner PerkinsCaufield and Byers (7.9 percent) and Warner-Lambert (5.2 percent).n

-- Jim Shrine

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