Given that a significant number of biotech companies have rushed through the clinic with products not worth pursuing, or with poorly designed or executed trials, Wall Street has been forced over the years to become more sophisticated about clinical trials. In the process, the Street has demanded increasing amounts of ever-more-detailed information about clinical plans.

Listen to UBS analyst Tim Wilson: "I won't go near companies that won't tell me how they design their trials. The whole analytical process for 98 percent of the companies is factored around what they're planning to do in the clinic."

Biotech companies, because clinical trials represent material events, and because they depend on investors' money, have been forced to respond by disclosing information that their pharmaceutical cousins would never dream of discussing, including dosing, patient selection criteria and other factors that drive the end results.

But according to the companies, that information doesn't come without a price - a tradeoff between investment and competition.

"You can tell when you talk with investors that they don't want to hear there's a cost to their need for ever-more-detailed information," said David Robinson, president and CEO of Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. (LGND, San Diego, Calif.). "In an environment of managed care, where having an approved drug won't guarantee acceptance and being first in becomes more critical, the competitive window is clearly increasing in intensity.

"If you are giving away information that can materially assist your competitors, then it's very important to balance the interests of your shareholders in the disclosure of clinical strategies and clinical design versus assisting competitors to be more competitive with you downstream."

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