- Ophthotech on Friday said it would substantially cut its workforce and stop treating patients in certain cohorts of two Phase 3 studies testing its lead experimental eye drug Fovista (pegpleranib), dramatically shrinking the company in the wake of the treatment's trial miss earlier this week.
- The job cuts will affect between 125 and 135 employees, reducing the workforce to between 20 and 30 staff. Ophthotech expects the reduction will be "substantially" completed by the first or second quarter next year.
- Results from the two pivotal Phase 3 studies showed pairing Fovista with Novartis' Lucentis (ranibizumab) didn't improve visual acuity in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), dealing a crushing blow to the New York-based company.
Opthotech saw its stock price collapse after news of the double Phase 3 setback, with shares shedding 86% of their value in Monday trading.
Fovista is part of a class of drugs which inhibit platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), a protein that promotes that development of blood vessels. Targeting PDGF was aimed at treating the enlarged blood vessels characteristic of wet AMD.
Ophthotech's setback Monday not only damaged the company's future prospects but also but a dent in those of the PDGF class.
On Friday, Opthotech decided to halt treatment of patients who are in the second 12 months of both the Phase 3 trials testing Fovista with Lucentis. Other trials combining Fovista with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor will also be stopped.
A third Phase 3 trial pairing Fovista with either Regeneron's Eylea or Roche's Avastin will continue as planned.
Announcement of the job cuts and scaled back trial plans did spark a small recovery in the company's stock, perhaps as investors weighed the prospects of reduced costs. Opthotech reported $321 million in cash and equivalents as of September 30, so the company should be able to weather the blow financially, although that will do little to help the employees being let go.