Ligand emerges from recession with strong pipeline

Xconomy has a lengthy profile on Ligand Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego-based developer founded in 1987. After going public in 1992, the developer brought five products to market and, at its peak, employed 650 workers. Despite the exceptional track record, Ligand's marketed products never made much money. The tipping point finally came when Ligand overstated revenues by $100 million four quarters in a row, triggering an SEC investigation. The company eventually went through the painful process of cutting staff, selling assets and handing off all of its sales staff to other companies.

As a result of the sell-off, Ligand found itself in the enviable position of having $150 million on hand in 2008, right as the recession began to hit biotech companies hard. "It created a unique opportunity to consolidate," CEO John Higgins, who joined the company in 2007, tells Xconomy. "We began to look for distressed, quality companies, where we could come in and cut costs, rebuild the business, just keep a couple of high-value programs with no burn." Its acquisitions in recent year include Neurogen, Pharmacopeia, Metabasis Therapeutics, and CyDex Pharmaceuticals.

All told, Ligand spent just $60 million in cash and 15 percent in stock to amass a pipeline of 60 drug candidates, 50 of which are partnered with big drug developers. And most are in human trials. "It is breathtaking, what we have done," boasts Higgins.

- here's the Xconomy article