All eyes may be on General Motors Co.'s efforts to drive 365 million shares into the hands of the public at a guesstimated $26 to $29 per share in an initial public offering.

But a much smaller pending IPO for a Philadelphia-area life-sciences firm caught my attention.

If Cutanea Life Sciences Inc. is successful in selling 2.3 million shares for between $6 and $7 per share, it would be the third IPO for a Philadelphia-area health-care company in 2010.

Based in Malvern, Cutanea is a virtual company that in-licenses compounds from other companies. According to a prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it has just two employees - president and chief executive officer Robert Bitterman and Kimberley Forbes-McKean, its chief scientific officer.

Cutanea hopes to raise $13 million from an IPO and use about $4 million to fund a Phase III study of a treatment for rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition characterized by redness in the face. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 14 million people in the United States have rosacea.

Cutanea in-licensed the compound it's been testing from Biowest Therapeutics Inc. for an initial upfront $200,000 fee.

A veteran of the dermatology field, Bitterman, 59, has run Cutanea since its inception five years ago. Before that, he'd been the CEO of Isolagen Inc., which had moved from Houston to Exton in 2005. Between 1994 and 2004, Bitterman had been president of Aventis Global Dermatology, which included Dermik Laboratories, formerly in Berwyn.

Like all life-sciences firms without a product to sell, Cutanea is losing money. The prospectus indicates that the cash raised from an IPO would be enough only to fund operations for about 18 months.

At $13 million, the net proceeds Cutanea is projecting to receive would be well below what other Philadelphia-area life-sciences IPOs have raised.

Tengion Inc., of East Norriton, sold 6 million shares in April at $5 per share, raising $25.7 million to fund a Phase I clinical trial of one of its regenerative medicine products. The seven-year-old company had 63 full-time employees as of March 31.

NuPathe Inc., of Conshohocken, sold 5 million shares in August at $10 per share, raising $43 million. Founded in 2005, it had completed a Phase III clinical trial for its Zelrix migraine treatment a year before its IPO. This week, NuPathe submitted a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration seeking approval for Zelrix.

Both Tengion and NuPathe have been trading below their IPO prices. Tengion closed Tuesday at $2.85, down 4 1/2 cents. NuPathe closed at $5.64, down 51 cents.

Bio Bucks

A deal between Wilmington's Incyte Corp. and Novartis AG last November involving the development and commercialization rights for Incyte's lead compound continues to fatten the smaller company's cash position.

Incyte said Tuesday that the initiation of a Phase III clinical trial to evaluate its INCB18424 compound for polycythemia vera in 300 patients worldwide triggered milestone payments of $50 million from Novartis. Polycythemia vera is a rare blood disorder in which a patient's bone marrow produces too many red blood cells.

Those payments follow $60 million Incyte, a publicly traded drug discovery firm, received from Novartis in January and a $150 million upfront payment it got in December.

When the Incyte/Novartis collaboration was announced, Incyte had said it could receive up to $1.1 billion in additional payments beyond the initial $210 million it received.

Keep that checkbook handy, Novartis.