Bioject axes 38% of staff as needle-free biz faces revenue, FDA hurdles

You might not expect to get a pink slip on the day that your employer reports that quarterly revenue doubled. Yet Bioject Medical Technologies ($BJCT), a provider of needle-free systems for injecting medicines, did just that. The Portland, OR-based firm said it cut 12 workers or about 38% of its staff amid a lack of expected new business, and it's shortened the work week for its remaining 20 employees as it seeks a way forward.

Bioject CEO Ralph Makar nailed it when he told investors in a statement yesterday that the company had a "mixed message" to report in its third-quarter earnings. Quarterly revenue shot up 107% to $3.1 million. The company even turned a profit, with net income of $372,000, up from a net loss of $357,000 in the year-ago quarter. The uptick in revenue got help from a big Merck Serono order, as well as a jump in sales to Merial. But that's about where the good news ended. The company doesn't have any new orders from Merck Serono. Also, the FDA has taken a tough stance on giving people flu vaccine with injection systems that haven't been approved for that specific use, stymieing Bioject's expansion plans in such markets.

"The company is taking immediate steps to address these events," Makar stated, noting the layoffs and reduced workweek. "The company intends to reduce additional staff as necessary in the future. Further, the company and board of directors are considering a wide range of options including restructuring the company to allow it to continue until new commercial agreements are entered into or to adopt a new business model and/or a sale of the company,"

Bioject appears to need more big drugmakers to adopt its technology, which the company says enables meds to by injected without needles by "forcing medication at high speed through a tiny orifice held against the skin," creating "a fine stream of high-pressure fluid penetrating the skin and depositing medication in the tissue beneath." The company's troubles seem to run counter to rosy estimates for growth in the needle-free market.

- here's the company's release