UK biotechnology company SkyePharma has seen its net losses for 2005 rocket, but says it’s still confident of bagging a deal for its star offering, the asthma drug Flutiform, this year.

The firm, which saw its chairman Ian Gowrie-Smith forced out over investor unrest – caused primarily by a delay in inking a deal for Flutiform – this morning said its net loss had jumped to almost £51 million from £18.6 million in the previous year.

Much of the increase resulted from escalating R&D costs as SkyePharma pursues Flutiform alone, with Phase III trials expected to cost in the region of $50 million. Last year, after failing to secure a partner for the drug, it took the decision to go to the market - raising £35 million after expenses - which has allowed it to keep the drug on track for a 2009 launch in the USA.

Meanwhile, the UK firm revealed that it has now hired UBS to sell its injectables business and has already received what it terms “significant interest” from both trade and financial buyers. SkyePharma first slapped a ‘for sale’ sign on its injectables business in February saying it wanted to concentrate on its oral and pulmonary drug delivery businesses.

It has two marketed products, DepoCyt (cytarabine) for lymphomatous meningitis and the painkiller DepoDur (morphine), as well as a pipeline headed by long-acting local anaesthetic Depobupivacaine.

SkyePharma shares closed at 39 pence on Tuesday, and dropped slightly during trading on the London Stock Exchange this morning.