Antex Biologics Inc., a vaccine developer whose shares trade at lowly levels in the relative obscurity of the over-the-counter market, said yesterday that it had hired an investment-banking firm in a bid to make the company more visible to investors, boost its stock price and scout for new sources of revenue.
First Security Van Kasper will help the Gaithersburg company assess alternatives, including the acquisition of rights to sell products already approved and on the market - something Antex doesn't yet have, said Theresa M. Stevens, vice president of corporate development for Antex.
Also under consideration will be acquisitions, mergers or strategic alliances and various financing opportunities.
"We hope, by building a relationship with them, they will bring us in front of potential investors [and] market makers to get the story of Antex out there," Stevens said of First Security Van Kasper, based in San Francisco.
Yesterday's announcement is a reflection of the fact that Antex executives believe that their company - which has two vaccines in the second stage of clinical trials - has put together a string of accomplishments that makes it more marketable.
Ultimately, Antex hopes to increase its share price above the $3 minimum required for listing on the American Stock Exchange or the $4 minimum required for listing on the Nasdaq stock market.
The company has met all the other requirements for listings on both markets, including those for net worth and number of shareholders, Stevens said.
Antex, for example, has a market capitalization of at least $63 million - a measure of company worth calculated by multiplying shares outstanding by share price - well above the Nasdaq's requirement of $50 million.
Shares of Antex closed yesterday at $1.3125, down 6.25 cents.
Company products furthest along in the development pipeline include one against ulcer-causing bacteria and another, targeted at overseas travelers and military personnel, designed to prevent diarrhea. A third, being developed to block the bacterial pathogen that causes ear infections in infants and children, has been licensed to French pharmaceutical company Aventis Pasteur. The company will pay Antex royalties on any resulting product sales.
Antex also recently completed a renovation and expansion of its offices and laboratory, roughly doubling its lab space to more than 15,000 square feet and leaving another 7,000 square feet or so available for expansion, Stevens said.
Securities and Exchange Commission documents show Antex expects to expand from about 28 workers at year's end to 35 this year.
The company also has cash on hand: Stevens said a $15 million private placement of common stock and warrants completed in March means it has enough to fund operations.
Also in March: Antex announced that it had discovered - along with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto - a protein that holds promise for treatment of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.