- Agios Pharmaceuticals, a developer of rare disease treatments, revealed on Monday plans to eliminate up to 50 jobs involved in exploratory research, part of an effort to cut costs and prioritize the company’s more advanced drug programs.
- Agios expects the layoffs and the reduction in research and related expenses to save, on average, $40 million to $50 million annually between 2023 and 2026. The company had 390 full-time employees by the end of 2021 and spent $257 million on research and development last year.
- Additionally, Agios announced leadership changes in its research department. Chief Medical Officer Sarah Gheuens will continue in that role, but, by the end of July, will also serve as head of R&D. Meanwhile, Bruce Car, the company’s chief scientific officer, will step down at the same time, after assisting with the transition.
Agios has been in a state of transition over the past couple years. Once known for its work in oncology, including the successful development of two leukemia drugs, the company in late 2020 announced plans to sell off its cancer treatment business in a deal worth at least $1.8 billion.
Agios has since kept its focus on rare blood conditions. There, the company scored its first major victory in February, when its medicine Pyrukynd secured Food and Drug Administration approval to treat adults with an uncommon type of anemia called pyruvate kinase deficiency. Agios is now working on marketing Pyrukynd while also testing it against two other blood diseases: sickle cell and thalassemia.
This progress hasn’t come cheap, however. Agios recorded just shy of $380 million in operating expenses last year, reflecting an annual increase of 13%. The bulk of that increase came from expenses tied to researching, developing and commercializing Pyrukund.
Agios, having faced criticism in the past for how it spends money, is now looking to curb some costs by pulling back in exploratory research and drug discovery. The company said in a statement its aim is to create a “sustainable pipeline” by concentrating on programs that are further along in the development process.
“We continue to prioritize investment in advancing programs that we believe have the highest likelihood of making an impact for patients, including our registration-enabling clinical programs in thalassemia, sickle cell disease and pediatric pyruvate kinase deficiency,” Jackie Fouse, Agios’ CEO, said in the statement.
Agios ended the first quarter, during which it recorded a $95 million net loss from operations, with $80 million in cash and cash equivalents and another $844 million in marketable securities. Agios said Monday that it believes these assets will allow it to operate for the next several years without needing to raise more equity.