"Virtual" biotech companies - those characterized by an absence of infrastructure - may run up against an anti-virtual bias of investors and even other start-ups with little more than minimal laboratory, production and distribution facilities to call their own. But the virtual approach can work, particularly for those companies confident of their sustainability.

One company moving forward with encouraging results under the virtual label is Mimetix Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.). Founded in 1992 by Donald Eaton, formerly the CEO of EndoTherapeutics Inc. and a founder of Mycogen Corp., the staff at Mimetix is composed of a small core of drug development managers, and the company has no lab of its own. Instead, Mimetix focuses on the identification, acquisition and development of new compounds that are in late development or have at least some human clinical data available.