Troubled drug developer Enzon looks for buyer as Icahn asks for chat

Three years after Enzon sold off its marketed products and decided to concentrate on its pipeline work on new cancer drugs, the biotech has shelved another one of its development programs and firmly staked a sale sign out front, just days after biotech raider Carl Icahn signaled his interest in a chat about the company's future.

Yesterday the Piscataway, NJ-based biotech said that it will suspend work on an androgen receptor drug program based on the clinical data that it had seen and the chance to conserve cash. And it announced that Lazard ($LAZ) was being brought in to advise on the sale of assets, "or a sale of the company."

"The board of directors, following a review of the Company's assets and strategic direction, has determined that it is in the best interest of Enzon's shareholders to pursue a sale, in whole or in part, of the company," said chairman Alex Denner, a high profile dealmaker in his own right. "In addition to a strong balance sheet and royalty revenues, Enzon's drug candidates and technologies offer the potential for a variety of transactions."

The past three years have witnessed a series of setbacks as Enzon steadily whittled away at its employee roster. Late last year the company jettisoned a program for colorectal cancer after the program flopped in a mid-stage study. That triggered a decision for a new round of layoffs, with plans to eliminate about half of the staff by mid-2012. In early 2011 CEO Jeffrey Buchalter left the company.

Icahn has been steadily pushing the company along the way, with longtime confederate Alex Denner at the helm. Denner--who left Icahn's organization late last year--orchestrated a series of Icahn's campaigns to push companies to the bargaining table, a strategy that worked wonders with big returns on Biogen Idec ($BIIB), Genzyme and others.

Late last month Icahn, who owns about 13% of Enzon, filed papers with the SEC highlighting his desire to discuss the company's operations and budget plans. Shares of Enzon ($ENZN) were buoyed by the news after losing about a third of their value over the year.

- here's the press release
- read the Bloomberg report

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