Xenova Group plc., a British biotechnology company, announcedFriday that it has raised $30.3 million -- primarily from U.S.investors -- through a private placement under Regulation D ofthe Securities Act of 1933.

Xenova believes this equity offering is the largest financing todate completed in the U.S. by a European biotechnologycompany. "Ninety-five percent of the investors were from theU.S.," said Louis Nisbet, Xenova's chief executive officer.PaineWebber Inc. acted as the sales agent for the privateplacement.

"Of the total amount raised, about 15 percent came fromexisting investors, including Genentech (Inc.)," Nisbet toldBioWorld. He added that the company also has "quite a largenumber of new individual investors."

Genentech (NYSE:GNE), one of Xenova's strategic partners andan existing shareholder, invested $3.5 million in the offering,bringing the South San Francisco, Calif., company's total equityinvestment to date in Xenova to $10.3 million. Other investorsin this private placement included Shroder Ventures andBiotechnology Investment Ltd.

"This placement is an important step in Xenova's strategicdevelopment, Nisbet said. "It allows us to develop proceduresfor communicating effectively with the U.S. investmentcommunity. That will greatly assist us when we do go public."

Cantab Pharmaceuticals and British Bio-Technology Group werethe first British companies to seek U.S. investors through initialpublic offerings last year.

Cantab (NASDAQ:CNTBY) of Cambridge, raised $10 million in thespring, with PaineWebber Inc. and Oppenheimer & Co. as theunderwriters. British Bio-Technology Group plc(NASDAQ:BBIOY) filed its IPO in June, but sold less than its goal,raising slightly over $3 million, according to companyspokeswoman Erin Burke. The Oxford company raised about$24 million (12.1 million pounds) from U.S. investors in itsmultinational private equity financing in July 1991.

Xenova's technology centers around its microbial screeningassays to rapidly identify potential small-molecule drugs fromnatural sources, including microbes, fungi and, most recently,plants.

Xenova has identified, isolated and characterized about 100active natural compounds and has selected leads addressing 15different clinical targets in proprietary and collaborative drugdiscovery programs, three of which have progressed topreclinical development.

All three, which are proprietary to Xenova, are small-moleculecompounds. One is an anti-thrombosis agent that "acts bypreventing the natural endogenous inhibitors of plasminogenactivator from interfering with the thrombolytic activity ofplasminogen activators." In other words, an "inhibitor of aninhibitor," Nisbet explained. The others at the preclinical stagehave potential anti-cancer and anti-rheumatoid arthritisproperties.

Xenova will be making a presentation at the 11th Annual H&QLife Sciences Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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