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Latest From BioTransplant Inc.
Bionaut Pharmaceuticals is pioneering a predictive assay platform for drug discovery and lead optimization using engineered cell lines. The firm has established internal small-molecule discovery programs and partnerships in autoimmune/inflammatory diseases and cancer, and is expanding its assay capabilities into other diseases.
Given the cyclical nature of the biotech industry, companies--both public and private--are forced to weather financing storms every few years. During lean times, one strategy is to cut operations to create the basis for a financing event and stave off the inevitable cash cliff. But a company focusing all its efforts on one, or at most a few, projects has very little to fall back on should its lead opportunity fail. And the equity markets may not come back in time. BioTransplant's CEO-Donald Hawthorne, brought in to save the company, understood from the beginning that companies with just a few months of cash left tend to fail. His challenge: to avoid failure, while at the same time maximizing the chance that in the event of bankruptcy, at least some of the assets of the company could create additional value.
Many biotechs, facing crisis situations in the fall of 2002, opted for deals that kept them alive but hardly offered much hope for upside. But in the coming months, boards may need to be far more realistic about their long-term prospects and consider a full range of options, including liquidation, when assessing a company's future.
As the financing drought continues and their cash supplies dwindle, biotechs are resorting to big layoffs to drastically cut back on spending (See exhibit 1). But however rigorous a company's turnaround effort, the target of the layoffs always seems to be discovery research, with the remaining employees focusing on clinical programs.