UK drugmaker Vernalis posted a rather healthy-looking set of results for 2009 with solid sales growth and a significant reduction in loss, and the promise of further success in 2010.

The group said that underlying revenue for the year shot up nearly 30% to £13 million, including £7.5 million off the back of Menarini’s European sales of the migraine drug Frova (frovatriptan), up 19% on last year, and 41% growth in collaboration royalties and deferred revenue to £5.5 million. In addition, loss from continuing operations was slashed 47% to £9.3 million, it noted.

However, the results seemed to fail to set investor enthusiasm alight, as stock dipped slightly on the London Stock Exchange yesterday, perhaps because of a remaining bitter taste from last month’s news that a key mid-stage drug candidate had failed and was set for the chop.

Shares dropped nearly 20% after Vernalis said that V3381 (indantadol) failed to show any significant benefit to patients compared to placebo in a Phase IIb study evaluating its safety and efficacy as a treatment for neuropathic pain due to diabetes, and that therefore it was unlikely to carry out any further clinical testing in this indication.

But despite this setback, the company insists that it has had “operationally a very successful year”, because it all three of its partnered clinical stage programmes advanced, and the group was able sign two new discovery collaborations with GlaxoSmithKline and and Servier.

Furthermore, the firm said it pushed two in-house programmes - V158866 for pain and V158411 in cancer - into pre-clinical testing, and, if successful, Phase I human studies will be initiated before the end of this year.

“We have accomplished a great deal in 2009, both financially and operationally, and on balance have had a very successful year,” stressed Ian Garland, Vernalis’ chief executive and, looking forward, he said the group “has been transformed since the start of 2009 and is extremely well positioned to build on that success in 2010”.

Indeed, Vernalis ended the year with a £26.4-million wad of cash and, with a further fundraising approved by shareholders last month and its move to regain the European royalty stream for Frova from Paul Capital Healthcare, the company now has enough to support operations into 2013, it said.