One of these days, Lipid Sciences ( LIPD) hopes to provide new treatments for everything from clogged arteries to HIV. For now, the Pleasanton, Calif., company has no commercial products and just 17 employees. But the tiny biotech outfit clearly aims high: Lipid's Web site suggests the company's breakthrough technology could wind up treating hepatitis, influenza, SARS and the West Nile virus, among other things. Some other facts about Lipid are noteworthy as well. The vice chairman and chief scientific director, H. Bryan Brewer, spent decades at the National Institutes of Health. The CEO once ran a company that is now owned by General Electric ( GE). And Lipid's most promising development resembles a new cholesterol treatment that, some feel, could become the next major blockbuster for Pfizer ( PFE). Of course, there is a flip side. Brewer came under fire at the NIH for perceived conflicts of interest -- including his ties to Lipid Sciences -- before he walked out of the agency's door. CEO S. Lewis Meyer saw his own popularity plummet in some quarters after he arranged to sell Imatron to GE. And Lipid Sciences seems unable to accept the fact that it has yet to find a suitor of its own. More than two years have passed since Lipid Sciences announced that it was exploring "strategic alternatives," after Pfizer paid $1.3 billion for a competitor. Nevertheless, Lipid Sciences -- with a market value of just $65 million -- continues to repeat that announcement in every quarterly update. "We felt on a go-forward basis, we would disclose it," a company rep told the Mergers & Acquisitions Report earlier this month. "Suffice it to say, we're still receiving inquiries. If that had changed, we would so state." For now, Lipid Sciences is pursuing its ambitious dreams on its own. Earlier this year, the company received conditional approval to launch a human trial that will test the safety of its proprietary plaque-removing device. The device, like Pfizer's potential blockbuster drug, aims to capitalize on the benefits of HDL -- the so-called good cholesterol -- in order to turn back the "cardiovascular clock."
Heartbreak Lipid's ups and downs
If successful, the concept would represent a major breakthrough in the world of medicine. It would also bring sweet victory to a small biotech that, so far, has been waiting on the sidelines for its first chance to play. Shares of Lipid Sciences fell 2 cents to $2.37 on Wednesday, approaching the low end of their 52-week range.