Cancer, Restructuring, Workforce

Five Prime cuts 41 jobs, days before presenting data at ASCO meeting of GI cancers

Things have not been the same at cancer-focused drug developer Five Prime Therapeutics $FPRX since late 2017, when its Bristol-Myers $BMY partnered drug cabiralizumab in combination with Opdivo showed signs of weak efficacy and a troubling safety profile in an early-stage pancreatic cancer trial. On Tuesday, the company said it had cut 41 jobs to focus its resources on its late-stage pipeline.

The layoffs — which account for roughly 20% of the company workforce — will largely be from positions in research, pathology and manufacturing, and will culminate in net cash savings of $10 million in fiscal year 2019. The South San Francisco-based biotech will also incur $2 million in pre-tax charges associated with severance and other costs in connection with the restructuring in the first quarter of 2019.

Bristol-Myers Squibb handed Five Prime $350 million upfront in 2015 in an up to $1.74 billion deal to partner on Five Prime’s pipeline, including its colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) antibody program, which included cabiralizumab as the lead in the clinic. However, Five Prime’s lead drug is now partnered with China’s Zai Lab $ZLAB. The antibody drug bemarituzumab, which is designed to impede a protein called fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2B), is currently being tested in a late-stage study in patients with gastric and gastro-esophageal junction cancer. Five Prime also has various early-stage protein therapies in its arsenal of drugs-in-development.

The company now expects to end 2019 with $148 million to $153 million in cash and other assets. On Monday, Five Prime said it was gearing up to present a snapshot of data from ongoing studies of bemarituzumab and cabiralizumab at a medical conference — the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium (ASCO GI) — scheduled later this week.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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