It looks as though US biopharmaceutical firm Trimeris may soon be putting up the ‘for sale’ signs after the firm announced plans to disband its R&D operations.

Trimeris noted that following the completion of a Phase I trial for the HIV drug candidate TRI-1144, a next-generation fusion inhibitor, in the first half of the year, “it will no longer staff any research or development functions”. The firm did not specify how many workers will lose their jobs but said the measures will operating expenses down to $10-$14 million in 2008 compared with $21-$23 million for this year.

Chief executive Martin Mattingly said that “market conditions and the significant risks involved in R&D have required the company to shift strategic direction”. Nevertheless, the firm “still possesses significant financial assets”, he claimed, thanks to sales of the HIV drug Fuzeon (enfuvirtide), partnered with Switzerland’s Roche.

Worldwide sales of Fuzeon, the first fusion inhibitor to be marketed, reached $73.9 million in the third quarter and Trimeris’ share helped the firm post revenues of $10.4 million, up 7% for the same period. Its net income rose to $5.5 million from $3.4 million.

However Fuzeon is not performing as well as some analysts would like and Trimeris, as well as Roche, has just been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit from Novartis concerning the drug. A pricy legal case could be more than the North Carolina-based firm would be able to stand.

Mr Mattingly, who has been CEO for just less than a month, said the firm still believes that TRI-1144 “has the potential to be a valuable product” but nevertheless, “during this transition period, we will evaluate a full range of options for maximising shareholder value, including strategic transactions."