National Editor

Determined to keep developing its pair of lead products, Valentis Inc. - nine months after disclosing a plan to reduce its work force by about 42 percent and close a facility in Texas - said it's cutting staff by as many as 45 more, a move that is expected to knock the burn rate down to $7 million per year.

A spokesman for Valentis, who asked not to be identified, said the firm had no comment. Earlier, the beleaguered company said a hearing on Nasdaq's proposed delisting was slated for Oct. 4, but the stock (NASDAQ:VLTS) was still trading Wednesday, moving down 2 cents, or 10.5 percent, to close at 17 cents.

Among those leaving the company is Tyler Martin, senior vice president of development. Margaret Snowden, general counsel, will gradually depart from operations but will continue to lead Valentis' patent-infringement litigation against ALZA Corp., of Mountain View, Calif. (now part of Johnson & Johnson). A trial date has been set for December.

The company said in January it was scaling back its work force - by 45 positions, then, too - dropping preclinical efforts, and closing its facility in The Woodlands, Texas. Among those saying goodbye then was Alain Rolland, senior vice president of preclinical research and development, and Bennet Weintraub, chief financial officer and vice president of finance. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 16, 2002.)

The plan in January was to lower the burn rate from $9 million per quarter to about $5 million per quarter in the coming six months. The fate of its collaboration with Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holdings Ltd., to develop the synthetic lipid delivery of interleukin-2 for head and neck tumors, was uncertain. Results from an 80-patient Phase IIb trial released in early December were poor. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 4, 2001.)

Burlingame, Calif.-based Valentis is expected to provide an update on the Roche deal shortly, and on the clinical status of its Del-1 angiogenic gene for peripheral arterial disease and ischemic heart disease. It also is expected to update EpoSwitch, an anemia treatment designed to allow control of erythropoietin protein production from an injected gene that is triggered by an orally administered drug.

Earlier this month, Valentis said it would terminate and withdraw its previously announced tender offer to purchase 16,940 shares, or 55 percent, of its outstanding shares of Series A convertible redeemable preferred stock and 55 percent of the related outstanding common stock purchase warrants, Class A and common stock purchase warrants. Its stock fell 35.3 percent on the news.