Ligand Pharmaceuticals has agreed to buy the struggling Metabasis Therapeutics for $3.2 million in cash. Metabasis will receive approximately $1.8 million after net liabilities are factored in. The purchase is a positive development for La Jolla, Calif.-based Metabasis, which announced in June that it might have to cease operations if it did not raise additional capital. Metabasis cut 30 percent of its staff last fall, then further reduced its workforce from 52 to 7 employees in May. The company reported an $8.2 million loss in the first quarter of 2009. Shares in Metabasis were trading at 44 cents this morning. Metabasis is the developer of the HepDirect targeted drug delivery platform for liver diseases. Last year, the company entered into a collaborative agreement with Roche to develop hepatitis C treatments using the HepDirect system. Metabasis also develops small molecule drugs for Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hepatitis B, and liver cancer. San Diego-based Ligand has agreed to spend $8 million on research and development programs for Metabasis. Ligand is partnered with a number of large pharmaceutical companies, including Wyeth and Pfizer, on a variety of drug development projects. Ligand's newest product, Avinza, targets moderate to severe pain.