If it weren't for bad luck, biotech NeurocrineBiosciences (NASDAQ:NBIX) would have no luck at all. Not only did the FDA put the kibosh on the company's plans to market its Indiplon drug for insomnia (in a form that would be commercially viable, that is) this year, but things have since gotten worse. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), the company's big-name marketing partner, has pulled the plug on its involvement in the program.

Pfizer had not only been providing financial support to the development of Indiplon, but it was also going to distribute and market the drug, giving a cut of the proceeds to Neurocrine, who would in turn send along royalties to DOV Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:DOVP). Now Neurocrine is on its own in terms of trying to secure FDA approval and/or market the drug if it ever does get approval.

A lot of folks were holding their breath on the future of this drug until they saw what Pfizer was going to do -- the logic being that if Pfizer bailed out, that was all but a death-knell for the future of the compound. While I'm not about to minimize the impact of this move, let me tell you a little story.

There once was a biotech company working on a drug for Type 1 diabetics, and this company had a partner by the name of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The two worked together for quite a while, splitting development costs, until some questionable data in late-stage studies led J&J to bail out. The little biotech company, AmylinPharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AMLN), persevered, and though Symlin is never going to be a blockbuster (the big story with Amylin is its Byetta drug, and the prospect of a long-acting version in years to come), the story still worked out okay in the end.

The good news for Neurocrine is that it seems to have enough cash to continue developing Indiplon (subject, of course, to the extent of the FDA's ultimate demands for new studies). The bad news is that there's nothing else in the near-term cupboard -- drugs to treat conditions like endometriosis, heart failure, and diabetes are still a ways off. In other words, while this story may yet have a happy ending, there's going to be a lot of nervous waiting between now and then.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and Amylin, but has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).