Pharma, R&D

Merrimack CEO is out as the biotech restructures, chopping its workforce and overhauling R&D

Robert Mulroy

Robert Mulroy

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals $MACK is cutting back and refocusing its research efforts in a major overhaul, which includes the departure of longtime CEO Bob Mulroy.

The biotech announced this morning that it is laying off 22% of its workforce —  more than 60 staffers based on the 306-member workforce it had at the end of the year. And a big part of the layoffs will fall in R&D and manufacturing.

Chairman Gary Crocker is stepping in to run the company temporarily, as the board hunts for a new CEO. Mulroy had been at the helm for 17 years.

The news didn’t sit well with investors, though. Merrimack shares were down about 8% in the wake of the move.

Not on the chopping block: The commercial group, which has been fielding Onivyde (irinotecan liposome injection), in combination with fluorouracil and leucovorin, for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. The drug was approved on an accelerated schedule last fall after demonstrating a 1.9-month improvement in the survival rate of patients. But it flopped as a monotherapy, making it a marginal player for a very difficult type of cancer.

“This major restructuring will allow us to strategically align our pipeline with our core capabilities and prioritize ongoing clinical development efforts while improving our financial flexibility,” Crocker said in a prepared statement. “We believe this sharper focus will drive efficiency and innovation and promote the interests of not only our shareholders and employees, but also of cancer patients worldwide. The realization of shareholder value will become as intense a focus for Merrimack as our strength in innovation and development. The Board is convinced that there is tremendous inherent value within Merrimack that can be unlocked.”

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