Vyrex Corp., whose lead product is an antioxidant for treatment ofAIDS, generated $6.5 million in an initial public offering (IPO) of 1million units consisting of one common share and a warrant to buyanother share.

The La Jolla, Calif., start-up company has four research programsunder way with the most advanced aimed at combating oxidativedamage triggered by the overproduction in the body of oxygen freeradicals, which are molecules that possess unpaired electrons. Freeradicals can have a corrosive effect on tissues and are believed topromote a wide range of diseases.

Vyrex's lead product, Panavir, has completed a Phase I trial forAIDS. The orally administered drug's free radical scavenging isdesigned to prevent the HIV activation from the virus' latent state.The company said its research indicates HIV's proliferation may betied to heightened levels of oxygen free radicals in immune systemcells. A Phase II study is planned.

Vyrex's other three research programs target discovery of genes andtheir proteins; use of cyclodextrins, a water soluble starch, to deliveroil-like drugs that don't mix with water; and therapeutics that induceapoptosis, or programmed death, in cancer cells.

The company, formed in 1991, had about $66,000 in cash at the endof 1995 and it reported a net loss for the year of $1.85 million.

The IPO, managed by First Equity Corp., of Miami, was completedMarch 29, 1996.

After the sale of one million units, Vyrex has 6.2 million sharesoutstanding. The warrants, which entitle holders to buy anothercommon share at $8, can be called by the company when the units(NASDAQ:VYRXU) reach $10. They closed Monday at $6.75,down 37 cents.

In addition to Panavir, Vyrex has another antioxidant, called Vantox,in preclinical studied for lung damage caused by exposure to pureoxygen, by respiratory diseases, by allergies or by environmentalpollutants. Among applications studied for Vantox is protection ofsmokers' lungs by adding the drug to cigarette filters.

Vyrex has a collaboration with Pollufil Trading S.A., of Geneva,Switzerland, for development of an antioxidant cigarette filter.

In its gene and protein discovery program, Vyrex said its science,called CD-Tagging, enables researchers to identify, at the same time,genes and the proteins they express. The technology was developedby Jonathan Jarvik, who is a professor at Carnegie Mellon Universityin Pittsburgh, Pa., and a vice president at Vyrex.

The company has an agreement with American Qualex InternationalInc., of San Clemente, Calif., for sale of an epitope-tagging kit, whichalso was developed by Jarvik. Epitopes are parts of antigens thattrigger formation of antibodies.

The initial therapeutic target for Vyrex's cyclodextrins involvesremoval of substances that do not dissolve in water. The firstproposed product, Cerex, is in preclinical studies for removal of earwax. The company also intends to use cyclodextrins as carriermolecules for drugs that are water insoluble.

In the area of cancer, Vyrex is planning to develop drugs bydiscovering biochemicals derived from plants, bacteria and otherorganisms that induce apoptosis in tumor cells. n

-- Charles Craig

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