Chiroscience believes its expertise in chirality, the tendency of molecules to appear in two or more physical forms, offers it the chance to create new drugs much more quickly and cheaply than traditional chemistry.
Nowell Stebbing, who is to become chairman, said he was pleased with the interest expressed by institutional investors. 'We don't expect our underwriters (Robert Fleming) to end up owning any of the company,' he said.
The placing and public offer of pounds 45m of shares will raise pounds 36m to fund research. Schroders, Apax, 3i and other venture capitalists are selling pounds 5m of shares. The company is buying pounds 4m of stock for its employee share ownership plan.
Applications for the 13,333,333 shares available to the public must be made by next Thursday. The minimum investment is pounds 300.
Chiroscience is hoping to exploit the tendency of isomers to differ in their medical influence. Frequently, one form of a molecule will be responsible for the therapeutic benefit while the other is inactive or the cause of damaging side-effects. Thalidomide, the drug that caused foetal deformities, is one example.
The company intends to produce better drugs by creating single- isomer versions of existing products. It will also create 'building block' compounds for drug giants such as Glaxo, SmithKline Beecham and Wellcome. The group's third leg will seek to create entirely new drugs.