Alkermes' (NASDAQ:ALKS) financial performance has improved as its partnerships with drug developers bear fruit. But the drug delivery specialist is poised to enter a new stage as it seeks approval for its own product for the first time.

The firm recently reported that it lost $9 million in its fiscal third quarter versus $20.9 million in the same period of fiscal 2004, and revenue grew 111% to $23.6 million compared with $11.2 million. Alkermes' top-line gains were driven by its partnerships: The firm chalked up most of the revenue increase to manufacturing and royalty revenues from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) for the commercialized product Risperdal Consta. The drug, an injectable version of the oral schizophrenia treatment Risperdal, employs Alkermes' Medisorb technology, which allows for sustained release of medication.

In addition to its relationship with Johnson & Johnson, Alkermes has two earlier-stage deals. It's working with Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) in clinical testing programs using Alkermes' AIR pulmonary drug delivery technology to create inhaled forms of insulin and human growth hormone. It's also collaborating with Amylin Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AMLN) to develop an extended-release formulation of a diabetes treatment.

While these alliances have boosted Alkermes' profile and given some credibility to its technologies, the company's ultimate reward in any partnership will always be just a fraction of a given product's total revenue. That apparently is why the firm has been pursuing development of its own drug, Vivitrex. Vivitrex is an extended-release formulation of the generic medication naltrexone, which treats alcohol dependence. Alkermes' injectable version would allow patients to receive one dose monthly rather than take a pill daily. The company expects to file paperwork with the Food and Drug Administration in the first half of this year to obtain clearance for the drug. The market for Vivitrex is by no means huge, but its dosing advantage may allow it to quickly become a standard treatment for many.

Alkermes will face challenges as it moves into this new territory, not the least of which will probably come from Forest Laboratories (NASDAQ:FRX), which is marketing another alcohol treatment option, Campral. Even with the potential pitfalls, though, Alkermes' progress with Vivitrex has to be welcomed as a sign that the company is coming into its own.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.