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NPS Pharmaceuticals close to being a full-fledged pharmaceuticals company

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As expected, NPS Pharmaceuticals is now one step closer to becoming a full-fledged pharmaceuticals company.

The Salt Lake City-based company announced last week the positive results of its multi-year Phase III clinical trials on PREOS, a compound targeting osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.

As part of its announcement, NPS announced it plans to file a new drug application by the end of 2004 with the Food & Drug Administration to obtain clearance to market PREOS.

For NPS (Nasdaq: NPSP) the announcement signals the near end of one trail and the potential beginning of a new adventure as a company not only discovering potential drug leads but one also marketing pharmaceuticals through its own sales, marketing and distribution efforts.

Founded as Natural Product Sciences in 1986 out of initial research completed at the University of Utah, NPS has been a great case study for this author, both as a participant and an observer.

As a participant, our agency was hired by NPS in late 1990 with the stated objective of helping the firm raise its profile and perceived value so it could raise $2 million to $3 million in a 12- to 18-month window. Naturally, I tell people we failed in our effort because NPS only raised $9.75 million in two venture capital rounds in early 1992.

Seriously though, working with NPS was a breeze because at the time it was such an interesting and sexy story since the company was milking spiders, snakes and scorpions for their venom to look for potential drug leads.

Yeah, milking spiders.

And although it's been some time since NPS milked any spiders (and more than a decade since they've been a client of my company), I've always had a fond spot in my heart for NPS and the entire NPS team.

Today NPS has 10 compounds in various stages of the developmental pipeline, five proprietary products and five aligned with corporate partners ranging from Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) to Japan-based Kirin.

Back to PREOS, the challenge with osteoporosis, of course, is the dramatic drop in bone density it causes (particularly in women).

According to the NPS news release, "PREOS is recombinant human parathyroid hormone (PTH), which has been shown in previous human studies and animal tests to stimulate bone turn-over processes, resulting in a net increase in healthy, fracture-resistant bone."

Last week's announcement from NPS explained that based upon its just completed Phase III study involving roughly 2,600 post-menopausal women around the world, PREOS generated a 59 percent reduction in the risk of bone fracture in the spine.

Obviously this is a huge jump in safety for those women affected by osteoporosis, and although the company is continuing to study the effects of PREOS on preventing fractures in other bones and its ability to increase bone mass density, the results in this study are very encouraging. Congrats to the entire NPS team on this newest development.

Also encouraging (although on a totally unrelated topic) is the fact that American Fork-based Sento (Nasdaq: SNTO) completed a $6.7 million PIPE investment last week (Private Investment in Public Equity).

Placed by San Francisco-based Shemano Group, Sento sold a total of 634,962 common Sento shares to several unnamed private investors at the then market price of $10.56 per share. In addition, Sento issued the 126,992 42-month warrants to the private investors at a strike price of $12.67 per warrant (a 20 percent premium to the then stock price).

These warrants have a six-month lock-up period, meaning that they are not exercisable for at least 180 days, but Sento has agreed to register all of these securities for resale "in the near future."

As a Web-enabled Customer Relationship Management company, Sento has seen its head count more than double in the past nine months, and according to President and Chief Executive Officer, Pat O'Neal, the company "anticipate(s) continued, solid growth."

Finally, Thursday was the Annual Member Meeting of UITA, the Utah Information Technology Association.

Held at the Marriott City Center Hotel downtown, the UITA fete hosted more than 150 industry executives and supporters.

In addition to two lively keynote presentations from Josh James and Thomas Stockham, presidents and chief executive officers, respectively, of Orem-based Omniture and Provo-based MyFamily.com, UITA also recognized Representative Peggy Wallace (R-South Jordan) as the Utah Legislator of the Year.

Wallace's honor was bestowed by UITA primarily for her dogged and tireless work in 2002 and 2003 in getting House Bill 240 — commonly known as the "Fund of Funds" — passed by the legislature (and signed into law) in 2003

David Politis leads Politis Communications, a public relations, investor relations and marketing communications agency specializing in the high-tech and life science markets.

E-mail: dpolitis@politis.com.