Drug Development

NewLink axes 100 staffers, shrinks pipeline in wake of a PhIII debacle

A little more than two months after NewLink Genetics $NLNK was slammed by the Phase III failure of its pancreatic cancer vaccine algenpantucel-L, the Ames, Iowa-based company has slashed 100 staffers and cut some of its clinical work in a painful restructuring.

The cuts, announced ahead of the market opening Friday, will see off any HyperAcute Cellular Immunotherapy clinical trials that don’t include a checkpoint drug. The biotech is also shrinking its manufacturing operations as well as its facilities, emptying out of about half of its headquarters.

The company plans to circle its wagons around collaborations with Genentech (GDC-0919) and Merck (Ebola vaccine candidate) as it husbands $160 million in cash.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the toughest targets in oncology. But patients taking Newlink’s vaccine – the latest in a series of setbacks in that field – actually performed worse than the control arm in the big Phase III study. That led to considerable hooting among observers on Twitter at the time.

Algenpantucel-L patients median survival rate was 30.4 months for the control arm and 27.3 months for vaccine group. Three year survival was 41.4% and 42.1% and four year survival was 32.6% and 32.7% for the control and study groups, respectively.

CEO and CSO Charles J. Link, Jr., had this to say in a statement:

“We have streamlined our operations and focused development efforts on the clinical validation of indoximod, our proprietary IDO pathway inhibitor program, which is being studied in multiple cancers.”

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