NeXstar Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Neurex Corp. Fridaywere the latest to join the on-going party at the equitymarkets where biotechnology companies have beenattracting investors at a rate not seen in more than twoyears.

NeXstar, of Boulder, Colo., and Neurex, of Menlo Park,Calif., each registered with the Securities and ExchangeCommission to sell 3 million shares in their publicofferings. Eighteen biotechnology companies now havefollow-on offerings pending in September _ four timesas many as a year ago. Another four companies areregistered for initial public offerings (IPO).

Based on current stock prices, the value of the 18 follow-on offerings is more than $850 million, which would farexceed any one-month total since the boom days of 1991.That figure includes Cambridge, Mass.-based GenzymeCorp.'s proposed offering of 2.5 million shares, whichwould generate about $150 million at the company'scurrent trading price.

Since the beginning of September, two equity marketfinancings were completed for $110 million. In August,follow-ons and IPOs totaled $470 million, the most sinceJanuary 1993 when the amount topped $440 million.

NeXstar expects to raise more than $46 million, some ofwhich is earmarked for the U.S. launch of DaunoXome, aliposomal form of the chemotherapeutic drug,daunorubicin, for advanced Kaposi's sarcoma in AIDSpatients. The company received an approvable letter inJuly from the FDA and could receive market clearancethis fall.

Based on the $15 closing price Friday of NeXstar's stock(NASDAQ:NXTR), the company would generate $45million in the offering. NeXstar's shares ended the daydown 75 cents.

DaunoXome already is on the market in Sweden. NeXstaralso is conducting Phase II studies for DaunoXome forleukemia, lymphoma as well as breast and lung cancers.The company sells another liposome product, AmBisome,in Europe. AmBisome is a liposomal form of theantifungal agent, amphotericin B, and the drug is in PhaseIII trials in the U.S. NeXstar is developing AmBisome incollaboration with Japan-based Fujisawa USA Inc.

NeXstar's offering of 3 million shares would give thecompany 27 million shares outstanding. As of June 30,1995, NeXstar said it had $26.5 million in cash andreported a net loss for the first half of this year of $9.4million.

Underwriters for NeXstar's offering are Donaldson,Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. and Smith Barney Inc.,both of New York, and Vector Securities InternationalInc., of Deerfield, Ill.

Neurex is hoping to raise about $20 million in its follow-on offering. The sale of 3 million shares would give thecompany about 17.4 million shares outstanding. Usingthe $6.50 closing price Friday of Neurex's stock(NASDAQ:NXCO), the firm would raise $19.5 million inthe offering, which is being managed by Furman Selz Inc.and Schroder Wertheim & Co., both of New York.Neurex's shares ended the day Friday down 25 cents.

On June 30, 1995, Neurex had $15.4 million in cash andreported a net loss of $7 million for the first six months of1995.

Neurex's two products in clinical development are SNX-111 and Corlopam, which the company licensed fromLondon-based SmithKline Beecham plc.

Corlopam, or fenoldopam, is in Phase III studies forcontrol of blood pressure during surgery and for treatmentof malignant hypertension. The company expects to file anew drug application for Corlopam with the FDA in thefirst half of 1996.

SNX-111, a neuron-specific calcium channel blocker, isbeing tested in Phase I/II trials as a treatment for severepain in AIDS and cancer patients. The drug is underdevelopment for pain in a collaboration with MedtronicInc., of Minneapolis. n

-- Charles Craig

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