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Single Drugmakers Seek Rich Partners

Big Pharma is in the need of a bailout. Thankfully, Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK) and Schering-Plough (SGP) aren't piling into private jets and flying down to D.C. for a public handout.

What the big drug companies should be doing is spending a lot more time around Boston and San Francisco, doling out the cash they do have to smaller biotech firms in need of the green stuff. In exchange, Big Pharma firms get what they desperately need: new drugs to fill the gaping holes that cheaper, generic drugs have created in their pipelines.

By my count (and with the help of a database maintained by BioMedTracker), more than 60 biotech and small drug companies are conducting clinical trials on unpartnered drugs at this time. Surely, some of these companies, not all, will become either alliance or takeover targets for Big Pharma in the next year.

Among the biotech and drug companies on this "singles" list are Allos Therapeutics (ALTH) and its blood cancer drug PDX, Ardea Biosciences (RDEA) and its HIV drug RDEA806 and BioSante Pharmaceuticals (BPAX), which is going to need deep pockets to launch a female sexual dysfunction drug called LibiGel.

Obesity is a growing epidemic in this country, yet three small drugmakers with weight-loss drugs in phase III studies -- Vivus (VVUS), Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX) and Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) -- are all without Big Pharma partners.

If Dendreon (DNDN) can prove to the world that its prostate cancer immunotherapy Provenge works, it's not hard to envision the company getting a lot of interest from a large pharmaceutical partner.

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