Trimeris is under pressure from its largest shareholder to speed up its previously-announced restructuring and possible sale.

HealthCor Management, which holds a near-18% stake in the firm, has written to Trimeris and requested two seats on the board. The letter said that given the importance of the decisions that face the firm “and their potential dramatic impact on shareholder value, we feel it is imperative that we have representation on the board of directors as soon as possible".

Things started hotting up at Trimeris in December when the company said that following the completion later this year of a Phase I trial for the HIV drug candidate TRI-1144, a next-generation version of the firm’s fusion inhibitor Fuzeon (enfuvirtide), its R&D operations will be disbanded. An undisclosed number of jobs will be lost.

However HealthCor says that Trimeris’ plans “only partially address our concerns”. It added that “although we are very supportive of the cost reduction initiatives, we note that the continued development of TRI-1144 is an expensive proposition and one that we would like to follow closely. We have significant expertise in this area”.

Cash should not be risked on acquisitions
The shareholder then goes on to say that the company “has not addressed our concerns relating to a sale of the business”, adding also that “we are not in favour of strategic transactions other than those involving a sale” HealthCor concludes by stating that “we recognise that Trimeris has significant cash assets but we do not want this cash to be risked in making acquisitions”. Rather, it “should be returned to the owners of the business - the shareholders - through a dividend or in the context of a sale transaction”.

Investors are also worried about the slow-down in sales of Fuzeon, which is marketed with Roche. Worldwide Fuzeon revenues dropped 9% to $66.5 million in the three months ended December 31, with sales down 25% in the USA and Canada, as Pfizer’s Selzentry (maraviroc), and Merck & Co’s Isentress (raltegravir) take market share.