Shareholders don't just own stocks. We invest in businesses. Every share we buy purchases a stake in a company -- a sliver of a living, breathing enterprise run by a management team that ultimately determines the fate of the money we invest.

That's why The Motley Fool regularly contacts public companies and executives on our community's behalf, asking them the questions shareholders would find relevant. Because while quantitative measures are important, it's also crucial for investors to assess the less tangible aspects of the businesses they own (or are thinking of owning).

We recently surveyed select companies to gain insights into their business. Today we highlight Vical (NASDAQ:VICL):

Headquarters

San Diego, Calif.

Market Cap

$152 million

Industry

Biotechnology

Related Companies

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Life Technologies (NASDAQ:LIFE), CytRx (NASDAQ:CYTR)

Here are Vical's answers to our email query about its business:

What steps have you taken to navigate your business through the economic turmoil of the past 12 months?
We have balanced the need to conserve cash with the need to progress in our key product development programs.

We conducted a comprehensive review of all research and development projects, prioritized those with a near-term path to commercialization, and deferred those without. We adopted new initiatives to improve productivity, including consolidation of inventories and purchasing, competitive bidding and renegotiation for outside services, and elimination of nonessential activities. In November 2008, we implemented a restructuring and 20% workforce reduction, and accelerated the scheduled closure of a research facility. Together, these efforts contributed to an estimated $4 million reduction in annual expenses.

Since that time, Vical has successfully completed two registered direct offerings for a total of $30 million (gross). The company expects to end the year with sufficient cash and investments to continue its current programs for at least the next two years.

What are the top two or three metrics to which your business pays the closest attention?
As a development-stage biotechnology company, Vical is focused on critical factors for its survival and its success. Topping the list are cash management, timely recruitment of clinical trials, and proactive communications with investors.

Now that the first decade of the new century is drawing to a close, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on what lies ahead. What excites you most about your business?
Following the commercial success of Gardasil, Merck's (NYSE:MRK) human papillomavirus vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, vaccines have taken center stage in drug development, with unprecedented interest at all levels of the industry. Vical's DNA vaccine technology has the potential to drive a paradigm shift in the vaccine field by offering significant advantages over conventional vaccines such as shorter development and production times, less capital-intensive manufacturing infrastructure, longer shelf life at more easily maintained temperatures, and more flexibility in driving the right type of immune response for each pathogen.

Our rapid development and testing of a vaccine against H1N1 influenza demonstrated the potential of this technology for pandemic applications. Our more advanced clinical programs and those of our partners are approaching commercialization. These include our independent gene-based immunotherapeutic, Allovectin-7, which is approaching completion of enrollment in a pivotal Phase 3 trial, and our two licensed gene therapies for peripheral arterial disease (one with AnGes in Japan pending approval, and one with sanofi-aventis (NYSE:SNY) expected to file for approval by year-end 2010). We are also excited about the prospects for our therapeutic vaccine designed to prevent reactivation of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in patients receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplants. In short, we have a broadly applicable platform technology that is shaping the future of vaccines.

Vical is rated three stars (out of a possible five) by our Motley Fool CAPS community. Do agree with our community's neutral assessment? Click here to rate the stock and cast your opinion.

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