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The San Diego Biotech Survival Index 2: Clinging to Cash in the Downturn

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Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND). The San Diego drug developer’s balance sheet looks pretty similar to Halozyme. It entered this year with $82 million in cash and investments on the books. It expects to spend about $20 million more than it generates in sales this year.

Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX). This San Diego developer of neurological drugs burned through almost $100 million of its cash reserves last year, and entered 2009 with about $80 million left in the bank. The company says it expects to use up about $50 million to $55 million of its remaining reserves this year.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OPTR). The future is looking brighter for this San Diego company than it did a year ago. Optimer’s drug for C. Difficile, a nasty bacterial infection transmitted in hospitals, was found to be about equal to a standard antibiotic at curing patients, and was significantly better at reducing recurrence rates. It had $39.3 million in cash and investments heading into this year, and raised another $32.9 million from investors this month.

Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX). This San Diego company, developing treatments for obesity, had $100.1 million in cash and investments at the end of September, and burned through about $14 million of that in the last three months of 2008, leaving it with about $86 million heading into this year. The company’s first result from a Phase III clinical trial of its Contrave drug for obesity disappointed Wall Street, but the company says it has results from three more trials expected to come in the third quarter.

Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL). This San Diego-based maker of diagnostic tests said it had $57.9 million stashed away heading into this year, compared with $45.5 million a year earlier. But all is not well. The company warned investors this week that it was hurt by this year’s relatively mild flu season, which weakened demand for its tests for flu and Group A Strep. The company reported a $6.1 million profit in the fourth quarter, but it now expects to run in the red during the first quarter of 2009.

Santarus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNTS). This San Diego maker of Zegerid for heartburn reported it had $34.4 million in cash and investments at the end of September, but it boosted that bank account up to $52 million by the end of December. It expects product sales of about $138 million this year, about a 24 percent increase over last year.

Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM). This San Diego maker of a noninvasive prenatal test for Down syndrome entered this year with about $100 million stockpiled in the bank, meaning it spent about $20 million of its cash reserves in the last three months of the year. It has a big year in store as it has plans to commercialize its SEQureDx test beginning in June.

Somaxon Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SOMX). This San Diego company failed to win FDA approval of its insomnia drug doxepin (Silenor) in February. Somaxon finished the year with just $14.3 million left in the bank. This month, it said it paid back $13.7 million in debt to Silicon Valley Bank and Oxford Finance. Whatever cash it has left after that can’t be much—Wall Street is giving this company a market value of $5.5 million as of yesterday’s close.

Vical (NASDAQ: VICL). This San Diego company had $49 million in cash and investments at the end of September, and reported it had about $42 million left at the end of December. The company said it expects to have $19 million to $23 million left at the end of this year.

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  • Bio Gal

    …and these are only the public companies. The private sector has been devastated. Loads of layoffs and lots of scrambling for cash!