The point of no return for Merrimack? Cancer drug developer axes yet another drug and more staff

Merrimack just can’t catch a break.

On Thursday, the company said it was abandoning its experimental drug, MM-310, after an early-stage study involving patients with solid tumors showed that treatment with the drug was cumulatively toxic to patients, despite trial protocol amendments.

As a result, the company said it was cutting jobs, but did not specify how many. It now has two preclinical drugs — MM-401 and MM-201 — left in its arsenal.

Merrimack is still reeling from its last round of cutbacks. Last November, the company slashed its workforce by 60%, weeks after disclosing MM-121, or seribantumab, added to docetaxel made no difference to patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

This slash and burn was preceded by another flop in 2018. The company rid itself of MM-141 after it failed a Phase II combo study in pancreatic cancer.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company’s claim to fame was its 2015-approved pancreatic cancer drug — Onivyde, which had a disappointing debut. It was sold to Ipsen in 2017, in parallel to a restructuring, which culminated in a new CEO, a slimmer workforce and three pipeline prospects: MM-141, MM-121 and MM-310. Each of these drugs has now been relegated to the scrap heap.

As of December 31, 2018, the company had $71.3 million in cash and capital, which could potentially fund its operations till the second half of 2022, it said last month.

Nearly four years ago, Merrimack’s $MACK shares hit an all-time high of $134.20. On Friday, the stock tumbled about 13.4% at $6.22 before the bell.

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

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