Still, last year saw some bright spots for Nektar. After hearing the familiar refrain from investors and analysts that so many biotechs receive about excessive spending (here and here, for example), newly installed Nektar CEO Howard Robin pledged to cut the company's cash burn and workforce, while still investing in its pipeline.
Fortunately, his efforts have had an effect; Nektar cut its workforce by more than 50%, from 1,100 employees to 500. Guidance is for non-GAAP operating cash burn of only $50 million to $75 million this year.
On the pipeline front, Nektar will have four phase 2 trials running this year and two new compounds entering phase 1 clinical trials. The first new pipeline candidate is a pegylated taxane that is designed to be a more efficacious and safer version of Sanofi-Aventis'
Earlier in the year a rival inhalable insulin compound from Novo Nordisk
Exubera is costing Nektar $2 million a month while the company pays for the facilities and employees that need to be maintained. If no suitable partner can be found within a reasonable amount of time, then Nektar said it plans to shut the program down. The good news is that any milestone payments from partnering Exubera are not included in the company's cash burn guidance for 2008; depending on what kind of deal it makes, Nektar could see its cash burn decline even more this year.