Winter winding down brings two good things: more sunshine and year-end earnings conference calls. I'm a forward-looking kind of guy, so I don't care as much about where a company has been as where it is going. For me, the prior year's results are yesterday's news. I want to know what's in store.

Yesterday, a company I like a lot, Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), held its 2004 earnings conference call. Here's my quick synopsis of the financials: The company lost a lot of money last year, but not as much as in 2003. And in 2005, it will still lose a lot of money, but the losses will continue to shrink.

I know it's customary to regurgitate the specifics of a company's financial performance, but I'm not going to do that this time because there's not much point. We all know that a drug company that has yet to market its own product is going to be burning through cash faster than a pyromaniac.

So with these kinds of companies, what I always prefer to focus on is whether there's a pipeline that has drugs that are commercially viable and likely to gain meaningful market share.

Vertex has a few of these, and that's what gets my attention and attracts me to the company. For me, far and away the most exciting compound in the company's pipeline is VX-950 for treating hepatitis C viral (HCV) infection. Yes, the drug is in very early clinical trials and surely could stumble. That being said, it's an interesting drug because it targets a large market with a need for effective therapies. What's more, it works with a novel mechanism that could give it a competitive edge over existing drugs. Now that's a story to focus on.

VX-950 is in its first trial in patients with HCV, and results are expected next quarter. If all goes well, the drug would enter phase 2 trials later this year. I will definitely be watching.

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Motley Fool Rule Breakers biotech analyst Charly Travers owns shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.