Popular strategic thinking about microcap companies frequently equates survival with M&A activity: buy what you can or make yourself attractive to potential purchasers. Last week, however, Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. pared back its activities through a deal with Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc., clearing its path to becoming a product company with a sharpened focus and cash to take products into the clinic.

ARIA has had three areas of focus for more than two years, said chairman and CEO Harvey Berger. They included its ARGENT (Ariad Regulated Gene Expression Technology) program of gene therapies regulated by small molecule