Drug developer Curaxis Pharmaceutical (PINK: CURX) aims to find a drug partner this year who could help the cash-strapped company resume clinical trials on its experimental Alzheimer’s disease treatment.

Curaxis Chairman and interim CEO Timothy Wright said in a letter to shareholders that the company is focused on attracting bridge financing between $1 million and $2 million in the first quarter. Beyond that, the Raleigh-based company wants to find a strategic partner by the third quarter to finance the study of drug candidate Memryte in phase 2b or phase 3 clinical trials.

Curaxis, which was formerly known as Voyager, focuses on age-related diseases. The company’s research is based on the theory that many diseases of aging may be caused by age-related changes in the function of the hypothalmic-pituitary-gonadal axis, a hormonal feedback loop that affects development, reproduction and aging. Alzheimer’s disease became Curaxis’ first target, though the company has identified several cancers as additional drug targets.

To date, Curaxis has focused efforts on lead compound Memryte. But Memryte’s clinical development has been hampered by the company’s weak finances — the last time Curaxis did any clinical work on Memryte was in 2006. In Curaxis’ third-quarter 2011 financial report, the company said that the cash position of the company “has deteriorated significantly over the last three years.” As a result, Curaxis has been unable to pay many vendors and is in default of several credit agreements.

Wright said in the letter that cash spent in the last six months has supported company patents and pending patent applications, liability insurance for directors and executives, as well as professional fees such as accounting and legal expenses. Wright said the company’s debt is greater than $8 million. Curaxis is working to negotiate reduced payments or termination of the balances due.

“It is extremely important for us to achieve improvement in our balance sheet as the current debt level inhibits further external investment,” Wright said.

Curaxis could raise money from Southridge, a Connecticut firm that provides capital to public companies. In 2010, the companies inked a deal that could provide Curaxis with up to $25 million in equity financing. Last year through the third quarter, Southridge had purchased 2.2 million shares of Curaxis common stock that yielded proceeds to Curaxis of $198,000. Curaxis said in a 2011 filing that clinical development of Memryte will cost an estimated $48 million over the next four years.

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