As Swiss pharmas have pared back, many programs haven't died but rather have found new life as spinoffs. One such example is Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd., which was founded last year following the decision by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. in late 1999 that anti-infectives wouldn't generate the blockbuster drugs that Roche is looking for.

Roche's decision was based on the fact that the field is already segmented into small indications and likely to become more so as drug resistance increases. Those issues matter less in a small biotech company, where $250 million products can make a big difference. "The hurdle for us is much different than for Roche," said Anthony Man, chief development officer.