A struggling ThromboGenics raises the white flag on Jetrea

To hear some biotechs talk about it, getting to the point where they can sell their own drug is the Holy Grail that drives their R&D effort. Many of these drugs can be sold with small, dedicated sales teams focused in relatively small groups of specialists. And the analysts often obligingly go along, offering big estimates of future sales--regardless of who's doing the leg work.

Then the hard reality hits, the numbers flag far behind expectations and stock prices hit the market quicksand as analysts start highlighting the hard figures on a quarterly basis.

That's the position that Belgium's ThromboGenics finds itself in now with Jetrea. With sales of the eye drug floundering in the U.S., the company would desperately like to get back to what it's good at: Product development. That calls for a standard review of "strategic options," in this case by Morgan Stanley, so the drug can placed in the hands of a more sales-savvy operation comparable to Novartis ($NVS), which has the ex-U.S. rights to the drug.

The therapy (ocriplasmin) is an enzyme that breaks down proteins responsible for symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion, or VMA, which can trigger eye problems when the "jelly" in the center of the eye migrates away from the macula, distorting reading vision.

ThromboGenics execs didn't come right out and say what they were looking for, but a U.S. partner or a buyer would seem to be at the forefront. Investors who watched the stock price fall by about half over the past year watched the stock price spike 16% on the news Monday. 

The experience at ThromboGenics over the past year was so bad EP Vantage recently used the company as one of its cautionary tales of biotechs which had gone wrong by trying to sell something rather than just develop it and either license it out entirely or sell the product/company. But their analysts also note that companies given to bold talk about their prospects often back themselves into a corner where they have to start selling the drug themselves. At that point the numbers do all the talking.

- here's the release