As it becomes increasingly clear that there will be no quick exit from the depths of the biotech market cycle, cutting burn rates and finding corporate partners has become Topic A for companies unwilling to bet their last dollar on a turnaround - along with companies that have had product blowups.

Last October, when we wrote a story on the prospects for research boutiques, it was hardly a popular subject. In fact, the whole idea was met with some ridicule.

But with necessity being the mother of invention, it's hard not to notice the numbers of companies that have become converts to the research boutique model, which now has been embellished with a fancy name, Fully Integrated Drug Discovery Organization, or less grandly, the Fiddo.

Companies are pitching the Fiddo concept to investors based on two themes:

• Biotech companies should focus on what they do best, which is drug discovery.

• Even though Fiddos will capture less total profit than vertically integrated companies, they require less capital. As a result, the risk/reward ratio may end up being the same for Fiddos as for Fibcos.

Getting concrete

As an increasing number of companies from the class of '91-92 reconsider their plans to become Fibcos or put those plans on hold, and more start-ups begin life as Fiddos, companies and investors alike need to consider which companies are suited to the model. They also need to consider whether Fiddos can show an adequate return on investment to lure high-risk investors. Many of the latter are highly skeptical of claims that Fiddos can show an attractive ROI.