April 2, 2008
The first rule for development-stage drugmakers is that when the cash is available, you grab it. On Monday, Alexza Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ALXA ) announced that it had signed a deal that will provide it with up to $50 million over the next two years.
The deal with Azimuth Opportunity allows Alexza to sell shares of its stock to Azimuth at anytime over the next two years at a discount to its share price if Alexza needs the funding. It sounds similar to multiple deals that Azimuth has signed with other development-stage drugmakers such as Medivation (Nasdaq: MDVN ) , Ariad Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ARIA ) , and Titan Pharmaceuticals (AMEX: TTP ) .
The nice part about the Azimuth equity financing deals for the drugmakers is that they are never required to tap into the funds if they don't need them or if they think their share price is trading too low to its intrinsic value. Therefore Azimuth's cash can serve as a nice rainy-day fund, and not have to be used unless it becomes the cheapest way for a drugmaker to raise working capital.
Alexza ended 2007 with $109 million in cash and investments. With phase 3 testing of its lead drug -- AZ-004 (an inhaled version of the antipsychotic drug loxapine) -- just under way and a second phase 3 study with the compound expected to begin in the third quarter, Alexza's cash burn is only going to increase in 2008. When the money that Alexza could potentially receive from Azimuth is added to the already creative financing arrangement that it signed with Symphony Capital, Alexza guided that it will have enough cash to get it through the end of the first quarter in 2010.
AZ-004 is expected to produce its first phase 3 top-line data in the second quarter of 2009, so we should have a good idea of how Alexza's top pipeline candidate is faring well before Alexza needs additional funding. So no matter what you think of Alexza's compounds, it's hard to argue that the drugmaker hasn't handled the financial side of its operations quite nicely.