Mich. vaccine maker buys ailing Maryland biotech

BioPort plans to keep all 38 Antex employees

March 18, 2003|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Antex Biologics Inc., a Gaithersburg biopharmaceutical company that is running out of money, announced yesterday an agreement to sell its assets to BioPort Corp., a Michigan maker of anthrax vaccine.

Kimberly Brennen Root, BioPort's director of communications, said that while plans are not complete, the acquiring company expects to continue operating Antex's Maryland facility and to offer jobs to its 38 employees.

BioPort would pay $3 million in cash or $3.6 million in cash and notes, roughly equal to Antex's recent market capitalization. Antex would be liquidated after the asset sale.

Antex stockholders would get about 10 cents a share, the exact amount depending on settlements with creditors.

The price of Antex shares dropped sharply after the announcement, closing at 8 cents yesterday, a drop of 72 percent from Friday's close of 29 cents. The deal will be subject to a vote of Antex stockholders. BioPort is privately held.

"As a result of the prolonged downturn of the capital markets beginning in 2001, maintaining Antex as a stand-alone public company is no longer an option," V.M. Esposito, Antex chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the deal. "The company believes that this agreement with BioPort offers the best value currently available for its stockholders."

Antex has potential vaccines in development, but no products on the market. Running low on cash, it tried a stock offering, but that was canceled last month. The company said then that its "existing cash position is insufficient to supports its operations."

At the end of the third quarter, on Sept. 30, Antex had $1.2 million in cash, but it lost $2.2 million in the quarter on revenue of $69,260.

As part of the agreement, BioPort will lend Antex money - it has already provided $200,000 and has said it could go up to $1 million - to keep the Maryland company operating until the deal closes. The loan would be due, with interest, April 30 if the sale hadn't been closed by then.

Potential products under development, she said, include a vaccine for chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease; a new antibiotic; and a diarrhea vaccine for travelers.

BioPort, which has a contract to supply anthrax vaccine to the Defense Department, has 290 employees.

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