Big drug makers may be among the favorite whipping boys of both politicians and consumers these days, but their biotech siblings have been a favorite of investors since Sept 11. Last week's 8% gain in the BioCentury 100 puts the index up 35% over the past 5 weeks, and 10% above its pre-Sept. 11 levels. Biotech has had the sharpest rebound of all of the major indexes, by far outpacing the nearest competitor - the NASDAQ Composite - which is up 24% over the past five weeks and 4% above Sept. 10 (see "Updraft").

But that doesn't mean the public offering window is about to open. Isis (ISIP) did price its follow-on - raising $100 million through the sale of 5 million shares at $20 - but most market watchers don't consider the deal a sign that the markets are percolating. ISIP was selling into two watershed events: In August, it signed an antisense deal potentially worth more than $300 million with Eli Lilly (LLY) for metabolic and inflammatory diseases. And in October, ISIP announced that its ISIS 2302 inhibitor of ICAM-1 improved symptoms of active distal ulcerative colitis in a European Phase II trial (see BioCentury, Aug. 27 & Oct. 15).

ISIP not only raised the $100 million in only 13 days, but its stock traded up $1.70 (9.3%) while on the road. And last week ISIP advanced $2.01 (10%) to $21.88. The company filed the deal on Oct. 9, when the stock was at $18.30. The offering was led by UBS Warburg, which was joined by Robertson, Stephens; Needham & Co.; and Fortis Securities.

ISIP has raised $860 million from corporate partners and the financial markets ($460 million from partners and $400 million from financing), $140 million less than its market cap of $1 billion.

Market hopefuls

The only other public equity news to speak of was from Northwest Biotherapeutics, which dusted off its IPO filing and provided some updated numbers for the markets to chew on. The company now hopes to raise $31.5-$38.5 million through the sale of 3.5 million shares at $9-$11, after originally filing on Aug. 13 to raise up to $48.3 million. A $10 price would value the developer of dendritic-based cancer vaccines at $165 million. CE Unterberg Towbin is the underwriter.