Low sales, high cost: Melin­ta slash­es HQ re­search staff as it strug­gles to grow an­tibi­otics rev­enue

Look to Melin­ta Ther­a­peu­tics for the lat­est sign of eco­nom­ic trou­ble in the an­tibi­otics field.

Ex­act­ly a year af­ter the Con­necti­cut drug­mak­er ex­e­cut­ed a $270 mil­lion pact to buy out The Med­i­cines Co’s in­fec­tious dis­ease group — one in a string of pipeline ex­pan­sion deals — the com­pa­ny is re­port­ed­ly clos­ing down its head­quar­ters and lay­ing off 22 out of 25 staff and spin­ning out re­search projects, the lo­cal New Haven Biz re­port­ed last week. The bulk of the cuts were in R&D.

John John­son

While Melin­ta con­firmed the lay­offs to the pa­per, it de­clined to ver­i­fy the clos­ing date of No­vem­ber 30 cit­ed by the news site’s sources (say­ing “no fi­nal plans to shut­ter the New Haven lo­ca­tion had been made”) or elab­o­rate on the job cuts hap­pen­ing at its North Car­oli­na, New Jer­sey and Illi­nois of­fices.

Over the past year, Melin­ta’s share price $ML­NT has plunged 85%.

The com­pa­ny has not re­turned our re­quest for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

“In the face of an ex­treme­ly chal­leng­ing time for the an­tibi­otics in­dus­try, Melin­ta has made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to sig­nif­i­cant­ly re­duce our in­vest­ment in dis­cov­ery re­search and are cur­rent­ly look­ing for strate­gic part­ners to take on these ac­tiv­i­ties, lo­cat­ed at our New Haven fa­cil­i­ty,” an emailed state­ment to New Haven Biz read.

Pe­ter Mil­li­gan

Melin­ta hint­ed at the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in its Q3 call, in which in­ter­im CEO John John­son plain­ly ad­mit­ted to low­er-than-ex­pect­ed sales and high-than-ex­pect­ed costs. With the help of new­ly hired CFO Pe­ter Mil­li­gan, John­son is hop­ing to shed $50 mil­lion in op­er­at­ing ex­pens­es next year by look­ing to ex­ter­nal sources for in­no­va­tion and “re­fo­cus­ing the com­pa­ny on prod­uct launch­es.”

It’s yet an­oth­er alarm­ing con­fir­ma­tion of the com­mon wor­ry that an­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­ers face slim com­mer­cial prospects even af­ter they have over­come the of­ten lengthy reg­u­la­to­ry jour­ney. Big Phar­ma has large­ly bowed out of ba­sic re­search in the field, as ex­em­pli­fied in No­var­tis’ high-pro­file ex­it in re­cent months, though Genen­tech claimed a no­table ex­cep­tion with a pre­clin­i­cal can­di­date that its re­searchers say can rep­re­sent a new class for drug-re­sis­tant gram-neg­a­tive bac­te­ria.

In Melin­ta’s case, it took 17 years and sev­er­al CEOs to get an OK for Baxdela, which was launched this Jan­u­ary with “in­creas­ing mo­men­tum,” John­son said.

The ex­ecs, though, have toned down an­tic­i­pat­ed sales of Or­ba­tiv and Minocin — two of the three prod­ucts that came with the Med­i­cines Co deal — by a few mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, Melin­ta was ap­ply­ing its dis­cov­ery plat­form on pro­grams in ac­ne and bac­te­r­i­al vagi­nosis as well as next-gen an­tibi­otics to com­bat “su­per­bugs” — a press­ing con­cern that the OECD warns will kill mil­lions glob­al­ly by 2050. Those pro­grams’ fate re­mains to be seen.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Joshua Liang, Clover Biopharmaceuticals CEO

With world still in sore need of dos­es, Clover says its Covid-19 vac­cine is 67% ef­fec­tive in Phase III

With concerns about the Delta variant rising and much of the world still in desperate need of vaccine doses, a Chinese biotech announced Wednesday that a new shot has shown positive results in a large trial against Covid-19, including new variants.

Clover Biopharmaceuticals announced Wednesday that its vaccine candidate showed 79% efficacy against the Delta variant in a Phase II/III trial dubbed Spectra, and 67% effective against Covid-19 overall.

Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 117,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.