The equity markets may not be open to every biotech company, but for those that fit the criteria investors are seeking, being on the road is no longer the painful experience it was even a few months ago.

Companies are beginning to complete offerings with some regularity - last week there were eight public and private offerings done for a total of $158 million - 25 percent as much money as was raised from those sources in the entire first half of 1995.

The list of initial public offerings and follow-on offerings awaiting completion is growing. Importantly, four recent offerings have gone out above the price the stocks were at when the companies filed. Sepracor Inc.'s offering at $14.50 was 21 percent above SEPR's $12 price at filing. Cephalon Inc.'s offering at $22.50 was 34 percent above CEPH's price of $16.75 at filing. Northfield Laboratories Inc.'s $17.75 offering was up 28 percent above NFLD's filing price. Dura Pharmaceuticals Inc., did its offering at $25.50, 13 percent above DURA's price of $22.625 at filing. Furthermore, all of these offerings are being done quickly, rather than hanging over the market for months.


As if to underscore that the sector has entered a bull market, last week's 7 percent increase in the BioCentury 100 was the biggest one-week gain in the index since it rose 10 percent in December 1994. The last time the index was above 1000 was the week ended Feb. 11, 1994, 78 weeks ago. The sector's strong showing virtually ensures that every company that has thought about filing for an offering will attempt to strike while the market is hot.

That doesn't mean that all will succeed, however. The profile of what kinds of companies the market will fund remains fairly narrow, and fund managers are continuing to ask tough questions, as biotech executives who have been on the road recently will attest. To get a flavor of what it will be like for those companies who will follow the leaders into the offerings market, BioCentury talked to executives from two companies that have recently completed IPOs, three that have done follow-on offerings and four that have done private placements.