BOULDER, Colo. -- Less than a week after it was issued a patentfor human basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), Synergen Inc.on Monday joined the growing list of companies rushing to takeadvantage of an opening in the public offerings market. Thecompany filed for a secondary public offering of 2.25 millionshares of common stock.

If the offering is successfully completed, Synergen will haveapproximately 13 million shares of common stock outstanding.The stock (NASDAQ:SYGN) closed Monday at $32.25, down$1.50.

Synergen last week was issued a patent for human basicfibroblast growth factor (bFGF), which scrambles thecompetitive picture. The company is conducting Phase III trialsfor the treatment of chronic skin ulcers.

Other companies developing FGF include CaliforniaBiotechnology Inc. and Chiron Corp. The U.S. Patent andTrademark Office (PTO) declared an interference proceeding inAugust 1989 between Cal Bio and Chiron, which has licensedbovine FGF from the Salk Institute.

The role of Synergen's patent in the battle for FGF is not yetclear. The Salk patent claims all mammalian FGF moleculescomposed of about 140 amino acids. The Synergen claim is fora human FGF molecule composed of 157 amino acids.

"We feel confident that Synergen's claim won't create anyimpediments for Cal Bio because we're not pursuing that form,"said Peter Shearer, director of intellectual property for Cal Bio.Shearer also said that Synergen's patent won't affect theinterference between Cal Bio and Chiron/Salk.

"We believe our bovine FGF patent is quite strong, and it's hardto see what utility Synergen's patent will have," said LarryKurtz, a Chiron spokesman.

Robert Kupor, a biotech analyst at PaineWebber, said heexpects Chiron to win the interference. He also said that Chironmay get a process patent that will block Synergen. Synergenwould then need a broad FGF patent of its own as a bargainingchip for cross-licensing, something it doesn't have yet. Becauseof the narrowness of Synergen's patent, Kupor doubts that itwill block any patents held by other companies. The lawyerswill have to figure out whether Salk's patent blocks Synergen'spatent, said Kupor.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the patent battle, whichcould take years to resolve, this is a very important patent forSynergen from the viewpoint of Wall Street, Kupor said. Withno patent at all, investors would worry. But with a patent,investors may say, "If they have the right patent lawyer, theycan win."

Synergen's underwriters are Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. ofBaltimore, PaineWebber Inc. of New York and KemperSecurities Group Inc.

Other companies that have filed for secondary offerings withinthe past month include Gensia Pharmaceuticals Inc.,ImmunoGen Inc., The Liposome Co., Chiron and Cal Bio.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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