The UK's biggest biotech firm, Celltech , has said it expects to find a new partner for its biggest drug hope some time in the second quarter of 2004.
Its main investment is in CDP 870, a potential money-spinning drug for arthritis and Crohn's disease.
The announcement was made as Celltech's financial results for 2003 were posted.
The search for a new CDP 870 partner began after Pfizer returned the rheumatoid arthritis rights to Celltech last December.
The firm recorded a pre-tax, post-exceptionals, profit of £43.4m ($78.5m) after what it called a "robust financial performance".
Celltech recorded a pre-tax, pre-exceptional, profit of £52.2m, up 4% on 2002.
The figure was in line with brokers' forecasts, which had ranged from £53.6m to £54.8m.
Product sales and royalties showed a strong 12% increase to £353.3m.
Two rheumatoid arthritis trials are under way to assess the impact of CDP 870 on symptoms of disease.
Dr Goran Ando, chief executive of Celltech, said: "The past year has seen good performances in Celltech's commercial operations and royalty income."
He added: "During the past year we have also streamlined Celltech's operations to better support our future growth."
He said there had been "exceptional progress in our early stage pipeline" and the continued advancement of CDP 870 development in rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease.