LONDON ¿ Lipids specialist Scotia Pharmaceuticals plc, of Stirling, Scotland, said it will ¿go back to the drawing board¿ in it efforts to develop lipid drugs.

Robert Dow, CEO of the company, said although most lipid products developed by Scotia in recent years have failed, ¿we still believe that lipids have a critical role in health and disease.¿ The company will use contracted-in genomics and combinatorial chemistry alongside its expertise in lipid biology to look for new chemical entities whose beneficial action is through the alteration of lipid structure and function.

Among the Scotia lipid drugs that have failed are Tarabetic for the treatment diabetic complications and Amelorad for the prevention of radiotherapy burns.

Dow said that, because of the fundamental change in the way the company approaches the discovery of lipid drugs, it will take two to five years for development candidates to emerge.

He made the disclosures as Scotia released results for the year ended Dec. 31, 1998, showing losses down to #18.6 million from #20.7 million in 1997. This was on revenues of #18.6 million (US429.5 million), slightly down from #18.9 a year earlier.

It was a tumultuous year for Scotia, which started 1998 with plans to burn #33 million. Dow, who became CEO at the beginning of January 1998, instituted a review of the portfolio that resulted in it being cut from 26 to five projects. Further restructuring led to the sale of a number of businesses, and a cut in staff numbers from 420 to 250.

¿All these activities allowed us to reach the year end as a slimmer, more efficient and skilful company with at least two years operating cash available,¿ Dow said. The cash balance at year end was #52.6 million.

Scotia hopes to win approval for Foscan, its photodynamic therapy agent for treating cancers, by the end of 1999, which could lead to marketing deals in Europe and the U.S by mid-2000.

There was also progress with Scotia¿s satiety products. Its natural food product, Olibra, is incorporated into yogurts on sale in parts of Europe, and it has a deal with major food companies in the U.K. and the U.S., which will lead to product launches by late 1999 or early 2000.

Scotia intends to develop other formulations for use as weight-reducing drugs, following a third study of Olibra in 60 patients. Results released last month confirmed a significant long-lasting satiety effect.

Scotia also said it has made progress with the commercialization of its lipid formulation expertise, which covers the use of galactosomes for formulations from skin emulsions and those which enhance absorption of drugs from the gastrointestinal tract.