Under pressure to reap return on investment, companies are seeking ways to ensure success in designing drug tests

This past July, Synergen Inc. suspended clinical trials of its anti-inflammatory drug candidate, Antril--being tested to fight sepsis--for lack of efficacy. Faced with the setback to its $100 million-plus investment, the Boulder, Colo.-based biotech was forced to lay off more than half its work force and shut down two major manufacturing facilities. Soon after, the firm's stock price dropped almost 50 percent, and today, despite its reputation for solid research, industry analysts consider Synergen a prime takeover candidate.

Synergen is not the only biotech firm that has suffered from such a debacle. In fact, since the beginning of this year, seven other such companies have been hammered by highly publicized clinical trial failures and seen dramatic drops in their stock prices as a result. With many biotechs under the gun to prove...

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