After a tumultuous year of reorganization, Rockville biotechnology company EntreMed Inc. said it reduced losses by $22.5 million and operating expenses by 40 percent in the fourth quarter.

EntreMed, which flirted with bankruptcy two months ago, lost $1.5 million (7 cents per share) in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $24 million ($1.29) a year earlier. The company credited stark cost-cutting measures and a $27 million agreement to license a line of experimental cancer compounds to its rival Celgene Corp.

The strategy has given the company enough time to map a recovery trail and enough cash to fund operations into 2004, said president and chief operating officer Neil J. Campbell. Research-and-development costs plunged 79 percent, to $4.3 million, from $19.9 million a year earlier. And after renegotiating $8.1 million in debt, the company booked an additional $2 million, he said.

"We will continue to manage our resources prudently," Campbell told financial analysts and investors in a conference call yesterday. In the past year, the company has laid off roughly half its staff and postponed further testing on two of its leading drug candidates, the cancer therapies angiostatin and endostatin, which are designed to choke off the blood supply to tumors.

EntreMed, which skyrocketed to international prominence on the early promise of the two protein-based drugs, has recently turned away from them. The company will instead focus spending on what are known as small-molecule drugs -- because they're smaller than proteins -- it expects to move more quickly, and inexpensively, through human tests. It is pinning its immediate hopes on a cancer treatment called Panzem.

"Our ability to finance proteins is not within our purview," Campbell said. The company will try to find a partner to co-develop angiostatin and endostatin to save cash, he added. As of Dec. 31, EntreMed had about $24 million in cash on hand, about half of what it had at the end of 2001.

The company, which has never turned a profit, said revenue grew to $461,821 from $129, 478 in the year-earlier period, because of payments for research EntreMed performed on a malaria vaccine for Science Applications International Corp.

Shares of EntreMed closed unchanged at $1.01.