US biotechnology group Vertex Pharmaceuticals saw its net loss widen significantly for the full-year 2005, as a strong rise in revenues was not enough to counter one-time charges and burgeoning R&D spending during the period.

For the year ended December 31, 2005, the company reported a net loss (calculated by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) of $203.4 million, or $2.28 per share, compared to $166.2 million, or $2.12 a share, for the prior year.

But the group’s Chairman and Chief executive officer, Joshua Boger, remained upbeat, claiming that: "Vertex achieved all of its clinical, research and financial objectives in 2005. In particular, we increased our financial strength as we advanced potentially transformational compounds targeting hepatitis C virus (HCV), rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis.” He concluded: “Our performance last year has positioned us to build momentum in 2006."

Total revenues for the year rocketed 55.8% to $160.9 million, driven by growth in revenue from collaborative research and development agreements and a hike in HIV product royalties, the firm said. But this was not enough to buffer a huge leap in R&D expenses, which came in at $248.5 million compared to $192.2 million for 2004, reflecting higher investment in the development of proprietary drug candidates and the research pipeline, Vertex noted.

With regard to the future, Boger expects 2006 to be a “further transformational year” for the firm. “As we look toward the end of 2006, we expect that VX-950 will be on track for a 2008 new drug application (NDA) submission, that our pipeline will continue to advance and that our business model will enable us to capture the full value of all of our assets," he stated.

"Specifically, we expect to have generated data with VX-950 that supports the start of Phase III development in 2007. Also in 2006, we expect to obtain clinical results from a major study of VX-702 in rheumatoid arthritis and begin clinical studies of a small molecule drug for cystic fibrosis. We also expect to report progress on our drugs in development with collaborators, including our HIV protease inhibitor brecanavir, our Aurora kinase inhibitor VX-680 targeting cancer, and VX-409, our novel, subtype selective sodium channel modulator for the treatment of pain. All of these clinical advances have the potential to drive significant value for shareholders."