Gilead Sciences Inc. raised $86.25 million in an initial publicoffering of 5 million shares, plus a 750,000-shareoverallotment, priced at $15 per share.

It was the third-largest biotech IPO since the public offeringswindow opened last February, after Regeneron PharmaceuticalsInc.'s $99 million and Affymax N.V.'s $92 million. The largestbiotech IPO ever was Cetus Corp.'s $120 million offering in1981.

The offering was increased by 2 million shares and pricedabove the $12-to-$14 range proposed in the preliminaryprospectus.

The stock (NASDAQ:GILD) closed unchanged at $20.25 in itsfirst day of trading on Wednesday.

The Foster City, Calif., developer of drugs based on nucleotidesis focused on three areas: small molecules, aptamers and codeblockers. Aptamers are oligonucleotide analogs that bindselectively to proteins or other molecules outside the cell. Codeblockers are oligonucleotide analogs that act inside the cell. Thecompany is targeting viral infections, cardiovascular disease,inflammatory disease and cancer.

Most advanced are the company's small molecules, two ofwhich are slated to enter the clinic this year. Gilead will filemidyear to begin trials of its mononucleotide analog GS 504 totreat cytomegalovirus infection retinitis in AIDS patients. Thecompany plans to file before the end of the year to begin trialsof GS 393, another mononucleotide analog, to treat AIDS.

The other two IPOs since the first of the year have also donewell. Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:AMLN) sold 4million shares at $14 to raise $56 million. That was 1 millionshares more than proposed, and above the $9-to-$11 proposedprice range. The stock closed in its first day of trading at$20.75. Deprenyl USA Inc. units (NASDAQ:DUSAU) closedWednesday at $22.50 after the company completed its offeringon Monday at $12 per unit.

These offerings have done better than offerings in December,when the market was crowded with IPOs and portfoliomanagers were more focused on locking in profits for the year,said Alex. Brown & Sons. Inc. analyst Amy Berler.

Gilead's offering fared better than recent offerings by its twocompetitors in the antisense field, Genta Inc. (NASDAQ:GNTA)and Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ISIP).

Genta raised $25 million in December, in an offering of 2.5million shares priced at $10. The stock closed unchanged at$13.75 Wednesday. Genta, which filed in August to begin trialsof its antisense compound to treat chronic myelogenousleukemia, could become the first antisense company to enterthe clinic.

"But Genta has more of its eggs in the antisense basket thandoes Gilead," said Berler. Antisense companies have hadproblems developing commercial-scale production of antisensecompounds, she said.

Isis did an IPO and a secondary offering last year. The stockgave up 50 cents to $14.50 on Wednesday. "Isis stock haslanguished as promises have been delayed," said Berler."They've had more time as a public entity to disappointpeople."

In contrast, said Berler, Gilead has exceptional venture backing,a charismatic CEO in Michael Riordan, some technologicalflexibility, and products entering the clinic.

After the offering, Gilead has 15.1 million shares outstanding.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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