Durham-based drug development firm BioCryst to cut 38 jobs

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 07:55 PM

The Durham-based drug development company BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Friday that it will be cutting 38 positions, or about half of its workforce, as part of a restructuring.

The announcement follows the termination of a merger agreement and related financing deal between BioCryst and San Francisco-based Presidio Pharmaceuticals, as well as a series of drug development setbacks for the Durham-based company.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals announced Nov. 7 that it was suspending enrollment in Phase 3 clinical trials for an influenza treatment candidate called peramivir. The analysis of the trial data collected so far isn’t complete, said Robert Bennett, a spokesman for the company.

On Oct. 30, the company announced it was withdrawing its new drug application for its hepatitis C treatment candidate, BCX5191, although the company planned to conduct additional pre-clinical studies. Bennett said preclinical work is ongoing.

In addition, the company announced last month that Phase 1 trials for BCX4161 as a treatment for hereditary angioedema would be delayed by an estimated three months as a result of a change in U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for the drug products it was planning to use in the studies.

“We need to make adjustments, and should be able to go forward in a few months,” Bennett said.

The restructuring announced Friday is meant to “significantly reduce” the company’s cost structure and to scale the organization appropriately for its current portfolio of drug candidates, according to a news release.

BioCryst plans to direct cash and other resources primarily to allow it to hit near-term milestones for its hereditary angioedema candidate, BCX4161 HAE, as well as for its BCX4430 broad spectrum antiviral, which the company has evaluated as a yellow fever virus treatment, and for its BCX5191 hepatitis C candidate.

“The strategic focus and restructuring announced today is based on an evaluation of our programs and operations, following the setbacks in our peramivir and BCX5191 programs, as well as the delay in our BCX4161 program,” said Jon Stonehouse, president and CEO of BioCryst, in a statement.

The company’s corporate restructuring includes a reduction of about half of the company's head count, or 38 positions.

Bennett said the restructuring will affect 20 workers in Durham, where the company has administrative, clinical, and regulatory operations.

In Birmingham, Ala., where the company has drug discovery and development operations, there are 18 workers affected.

“We didn’t really eliminate specific functions; we’ve pretty much narrowed just about everything,” Bennett said.

They company said in the release that it expects to see a cash savings of $15 million to $18 million next year, excluding restructuring and deal charges, as compared to an approximate $40 million cash use expected in 2012.

“The restructuring is a necessary but difficult measure that impacts many talented and dedicated BioCryst employees who will be leaving the company,” Stonehouse said. “We are grateful for their meaningful contributions and commitment over the years.”