Pharma, R&D

Celldex brings out the ax in wake of breast cancer drug disaster, chopping a quarter of its staff

Celldex Therapeutics $CLDX is restructuring and cutting back in the aftermath of a disastrous Phase IIb readout. The company — no stranger to misfortune — reported late Thursday that it is cutting 59 positions from its 2018 budgeted workforce, leaving it with 148 employees.

The process required laying off 41 employees in addition to abandoning plans to fill 18 new or open positions. According to the company, the move would also “better align its workforce with the needs of its business.”

Anthony Marucci

The announcement came days after execs led by CEO Anthony Marucci decided to scrap an antibody-drug conjugate program after glembatumumab vedotin failed to do any better than chemo agent Xeloda in progression-free survival among patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancers who overexpress glycoprotein NMB. (And that was a conclusion based on a p-value of 0.76.) None of the secondary endpoints — overall response rate, duration of response and overall survival — were met.

Hampton, NJ-based Celldex fell even deeper into penny stock territory, plunging 52% on the news — reminiscent of a similar fall it took in early 2016 after a cancer vaccine flop.

Some investors had hoped Rintega (rindopepimut), which targets a subtype of glioblastoma, would become the second cancer vaccine approved in the US. But in a Phase III study investigators concluded that the drug did not improve overall survival the way it did progression-free survival in Phase II, and Celldex had to cut the trial short.

With glembatumumab vedotin gone from its pipeline, two assets have taken its front place: varlilumab, a CD27-targeting monoclonal antibody being tested with Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo in a PhII; and CDX-3379, an ErbB3 inhibitor picked up from its $235 million acquisition of Kolltan.

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