Trimeris, developer of the AIDS drug Fuzeon, plans to cut drastically into the ranks of its remaining workforce and halt development of a new drug next year once a first phase clinical trial is completed.

In a statement released after the markets closed Monday, Trimeris (Nasdaq: TRMS) said it planned to slash payroll and expenses in 2008. While the company didn’t disclose details on headcount, recent cutbacks have reduced the firm’s workforce to under 50 people.

Under a plan described by new Chief Executive Officer Martin Mattingly, Trimeris will cut spending to between $10 million and $14 million next year. That’s down from $21 million to $23 million this year.

Trimeris has been under pressure to stop development of the drug, called TRI-1144, and to sell the firm by HealthCor, one of its largest shareholders.

Drug giant Novartis also announced on Nov. 27 that it was suing Trimeris for alleged patent infringement in development of Fuzeon.

Mattingly, the company’s fourth top executive in the past year, said TRI-1144 would be advanced to help increase the value of Trimeris. Trimeris shares closed at $6.44, up 19 cents, on Monday.

"While market conditions and the significant risks involved in research and development have required the company to shift strategic direction, Trimeris still possesses significant financial assets that include substantial cash and revenue streams from the sale of Fuzeon in collaboration with Roche,” Mattingly said in a statement.

“In addition, we believe that TRI-1144 has the potential to be a valuable product for the treatment of HIV,” he added. “We look forward to generating human data by filing an [investigational new drug] in the first quarter of 2008 followed shortly by a Phase I clinical trial. During this transition period we will evaluate a full range of options for maximizing shareholder value, including strategic transactions."

Roche is Trimers’ drug development, production and sales partner for Fuzeon. However, earlier this year Roche withdrew from the TRI-1144 program.