Drug development rarely occurs without delays, as Rule Breakers pick Panacos Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PANC) proved so aptly in December. Perhaps in conjunction with the clocks springing ahead, Panacos announced yesterday how it planned to move forward with its developmental program for bevirimat, its HIV drug candidate.

After the failed start-up of the bevirimat phase 2b trial, in which the tablet form of the drug wasn't working correctly, Panacos has decided to move the trial along with the previously used liquid formulation of the drug. The trial is also being truncated with fewer patients enrolled in it, perhaps as a hedge in case its newest maturation inhibitor becomes its lead compound, and to conserve cash.

Panacos is sticking to its plan of initiating the much larger and more costly phase 3 trials in 2008. These trials will begin after Panacos establishes the optimal dose level of the drug, and after patients are on longer-term treatment with bevirimat. Results from this clinical study -- which is really more like a phase 1 study that continues on into a phase 2 trial -- should be coming out continually over the next several months, with the longer-term data coming out in 2008. Investors will have plenty of data points on the drug to mull over this year.

The scope of the revised phase 2b study is smaller and will reveal less useful information about the drug's effectiveness than the previously planned larger phase 2b study. But it's good to see Panacos moving the trial along again while it works on the improved tablet formulation of the drug, which can then be used in the pivotal phase 3 studies.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler owns shares of Panacos. The Fool has a disclosure policy.