Pipeline failures have prompted two biotech firms - Germany's Wilex and Geron Corp of the USA - to announce job cuts.
First up, Wilex has put together a package of restructuring measures in reaction to the results of a Phase III study with Rencarex (girentuximab) which missed the primary endpoint. The drug was being tested for adjuvant treatment of clear cell renal cell carcinoma but in the trial patients in the placebo group showed a considerably longer disease free survival time than expected.
Wilex has therefore pulled the project and as a result, the workforce at its Munich site will be reduced by around 25%. The facilities in Ladenburg, Germany and Cambridge, USA, are not affected.
The price of the restructuring is expected to come to around 350,000 euros and lower R&D and staff expenses will "trim operating expenses significantly by 2014 compared to 2012". Wilex has cash and equivalents of around 23 million euros which should be sufficient to keep the business going until the second quarter of 2014.
Chief executive Olaf Wilhelm said “it is painful for us …to have to make staff redundant. After all, our employees have put their heart and soul into developing our product portfolio". However, he added that by cutting costs and pursuing a "future-oriented business model, we can, in the medium term, return to a situation in which we see our enterprise value rise".
Meantime, Geron has revealed that it has discontinued development of GRN1005, its peptide-drug conjugate designed to treat cancers in the brain. As a result, the company will reduce its workforce from 107 positions to 64 and reduce its annual cash operating expenses from $65 million in 2012 to $33 million.
However, Geron, which expects to end 2012 with $90 million in cash and investments, said it intends to continue development of another of its treatments, imetelstat, a telomerase inhibitor, in haematologic myeloid malignancies and in patients with solid tumours that have short telomeres. Earlier this year, imetelstat failed in trials for breast and lung cancers.