Rigel reorganization slashes 46 jobs
- In a restructuring around the commercialization of potential immune thrombocytopenia therapeutic, Rigel Pharmaceuticals cut its workforce by a whopping 38%, mostly in research. The savings could cost around $5.7 million in third quarter 2016, but may result in savings of $17 to $20 million a year.
- The company will continue with a reduced research department, developing small molecule candidates in immunology and oncology.
- Rigel co-founder Donald G. Payan has stepped down as executive VP and president of discovery and research; Eldon C. Mayer III steps into a role as executive VP and chief commercial officer.
In August 2016, Rigel announced that its oral SYK inhibitor, fostamatinib, met the primary endpoint of the first of its two identical Phase 3 trials in chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). The data from the second study should come through in late October or early November, and the two datasets will be used in a new drug application submission to the U.S Food and Drug Administration planned for first quarter of 2017. Fostamatinib has orphan drug designation from the FDA.
While, at the time of the results J.P. Morgan analysts said that they saw the results as a "grind it out win" instead of "home run," shares were up 34% in August on the data.
Despite this somewhat mixed response, Rigel apparently has enough confidence in the market potential of its as yet unapproved drug that it is restructuring the company as a commercial organization around fostamatinib, including the recruitment of Eldon C. Mayer III as CCO. Mayer has worked in commercial roles at Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Connetics, Chiron, Alza and Schering-Plough.
"We have reached an important threshold with fostamatinib where we need the capabilities of an experienced CCO to take fostamatinib into its next phase, " said Raul Rodriguez, president and CEO of Rigel.
Cuts this drastic in R&D, reliance on an unapproved drug and the 'eggs in one basket' approach to near-term income might be seen as a perhaps an unusual approach. Fostamatinib, which is also in Phase 2 trials for autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and IgA nephropathy, is the only Rigel product that has reached advanced clinical trials; there are two oncology candidates in development with partners BerGenBio and Daiichi Sankyo, but these are only in Phase 1.
- Rigel Statement
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