Biotech Survival Index 2: Boston Life Sciences Companies Squirrel Away More Cash for Long Winter

3/17/09Follow @xconomy

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Bruker (NASDAQ: BRKR). The Billerica, MA-based maker of scientific instruments is profitable, so there’s no great reason to tap cash reserves to fund operations. But its cash balance has dropped to $167.7 million heading into this year, down from $344.6 million a year ago.

Caliper Life Sciences (NASDAQ: CALP). The Hopkinton, MA-based maker of scientific instruments reported $26.7 million in cash heading into this year, after reporting a net loss of $68 million in 2008. So earlier this month, it got an amended line of $25 million in credit from Silicon Valley Bank. Caliper says it has reduced its annual spending rate by $10 million.

Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CLDX). The Needham, MA-based company had $44.3 million in cash heading into this year, which ought to be enough to finance operations through 2010, the company says. Last year’s comparable data is misleading because that was before the company acquired Avant Immunotherapeutics.

Charles River Laboratories (NYSE: CRL). The Wilmington, MA-based maker of lab supplies maintained a pretty steady position on its balance sheet. The company had $243.6 million in cash and investments at the end of December, up slightly from $225.5 million a year ago.

Clinical Data (NASDAQ: CLDA). This Newton, MA-based company just fattened up its cash reserves by raising $50 million in convertible debt. That will look like a savvy move if the company’s depression drug wins FDA approval and goes on to be a big seller, driving the stock up enough that the debt converts to shares, and doesn’t have to be repaid. But if the drug stumbles, Clinical Data will have to pay back the whole debt plus interest, which is why convertible debt has been known to strangle many a biotech company. Clinical Data wasn’t in a great position to argue for more favorable terms, though. It had just $25.7 million in cash heading into this year, and a net loss of $23.7 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

CombinatoRx (NASDAQ: CRXX). The Cambridge, MA-based biotech has cut two-thirds of its workforce since its lead drug candidate failed in a clinical trial for osteoarthritis last fall. The company reported $51 million in cash left heading into this year, down from $112.6 million a year earlier. It is aiming to watch its remaining pennies carefully, keeping its cash spending rate down to $5 million to $10 million a year to keep the company running into 2012.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST). The Lexington, MA-based antibiotic maker reported $418 million in cash and investments heading into this year, and was coming off a profitable quarter. It had $398 million in cash and investments a year earlier.

Curis (NASDAQ: CRIS). This Cambridge, MA-based cancer drug developer had $28.9 million in cash and investments heading into 2009, and had a net loss of $12.1 million during the past year. It recently got a $6 million milestone payment from Genentech, which, combined with reserves, ought to keep the company running into mid-2010.

Dyax (NASDAQ: DYAX). This Cambridge, MA-based company had $58.5 million in cash and investments heading into this year, The company had a net loss of $66.4 million in 2008, so its stockpile essentially amounts to one year’s worth of operating cash. The company says it has enough money to operate “through 2009.”

Epix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: EPIX). This Lexington, MA-based company was unusually candid about its precarious finances. “Our key priority is improving the financial health of EPIX,” said CEO Elkan Gamzu in a statement last week. The company entered this year with $24.6 million in cash and investments, down from $61.1 million a year earlier. And it has a whopping $100 million in convertible debt on its books—to understand why that can be bad, see the entry on Newton, MA-based Clinical Data.

Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS). The Marlborough, MA-based maker of a stool-based diagnostic test for colorectal cancer fought off a hostile takeover from San Diego-based Sequenom in January. The company, in a vulnerable position with its stock at less than $1, sold some intellectual property and 3 million shares to Genzyme for $24.5 million. It still hasn’t reported its fourth-quarter finances to the SEC.

Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ). This Cambridge, MA-based company shaved 12 cents off its forecasted earnings per share this year after it failed to win approval from the FDA to make its Pompe disease treatment, alglucosidase alfa (branded in different contexts as Myozyme and Lumizyme), in 2,000 liter vats. The company isn’t hurting for cash, reporting $973 million on its balance sheet heading into 2009, although that’s down significantly from $1.46 billion a year earlier. … Next Page »

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