Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Also, a startup gets a $132K shot in the arm from the U.K. government to hire more people.

After laying off about 20 staffers—some 20% of its staff—back in September, Idenix added to its workforce this week, naming Jacques Dumas, Ph.D., as its new evp and CSO effective January 20.

Dr. Dumas, 47, joins Idenix from AstraZeneca, where he had served as vp and head of strategy, infection innovative medicines since December 2010, overseeing disease area strategy and external collaborations on behalf of the company’s small molecule infectious diseases unit. Previously, he held the successive positions of associate director, medicinal chemistry and emerging products director. Dr. Dumas is also co-inventor of cancer drugs Nexavar and Stivarga.

“His knowledge and leadership will be important as we continue to conduct our nucleotide prodrug discovery work in HCV as well as explore potential therapeutic areas for which we can apply our chemistry expertise,” Ron Renaud, Idenix’ president and CEO, said in a statement.

Does that augur a broader anti-infectious disease pipeline? Or an even broader pipeline looking beyond infectious disease?

Yes, and yes.

“Over the last six months or so we have been talking about our very early stage efforts to evaluate our library of compounds for potential therapeutic area opportunities outside of HCV. This could be the broader infectious disease area or even beyond if it is an area where our nucleoside expertise could be useful,” Idenix spokeswoman Teri Dalman told GEN.

Idenix’ pipeline now consists exclusively of hepatitis drugs. It has an approved HBV treatment Tyzeko/Sebivo (telbivudine), to which Novartis has exclusive worldwide commercialization rights after co-developing the drug. The pipeline also includes several HCV drugs: once-daily pan-genotypic NS5A inhibitor IDX719 (samatasvir), now in Phase II study in a regimen with the Janssen/Medivir once-daily NS3/4A protease inhibitor simeprevir; IDX21437, a next-generation uridine nucleotide prodrug inhibitor for which Idenix launched healthy-volunteer patient enrollment for a Phase I/II clinical trial; a preclinical uridine nucleotide prodrug candidate IDX20963; and undisclosed “additional nucleotide inhibitors.”

The company’s R&D effort saw a setback in June, when FDA responded to its IND for IDX20963 by demanding additional preclinical safety data. Idenix said that would delay the launch of trials.

Two months later on September 9, Idenix launched a restructuring in which it cut its workforce at its Cambridge, MA, headquarters and a facility in Montpellier, France, by “approximately 20 positions,” according to a quarterly Form 10-Q filed October 30 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission—five more positions than the company disclosed a month earlier. Idenix said it would take between $2 million and $4 million in combined severance benefit charges and non-cash stock compensation expense—but expects to generate $2 million to $3 million in annual savings.

“We currently have approximately 85 employees and we are always looking for ways to make our organization more efficient and reduce costs,” Dahlman said.

The same day as the layoffs were announced, Dr. Dumas’ predecessor stepped down immediately—David Standring, Ph.D., who held the position since December 2010. Since his departure is deemed a termination other than for cause, Dr. Standring is entitled to $510,000 in severance benefits and acceleration of all unvested options.

According to a Form 8-K filed January 6 with the SEC, Dr. Dumas will be paid an annual base salary of $340,000, plus an annual cash performance bonus if the company’s board of directors is satisfied with his performance. The actual bonus may range from zero to 200% of a target amount equal to 50% of his base salary.

Dr. Dumas will also receive options to purchase 250,000 shares of Idenix common stock that will vest over 48 months beginning January 31, and a cash sign on bonus of $225,000—an amount he has to repay, including any amounts withheld for taxes, if he is terminated for cause or he resigns other than for good reason on or before January 20, 2015. The repayment is reduced to 50% for his second year on the job, if he resigns on or before January 20, 2016.

SCANCELL: U.K. Startup Wins £80K Grant for Jobs

A U.K. startup focused on developing a new class of cancer immunotherapies said this week it will use a recently won £80,000 (about $132,000) government grant to add three employees in R&D positions to help develop its Moditope technology platform.

Moditope uses CD4+ T cells to eradicate tumors, deploying citrullinated tumor-associated peptide epitopes to overcome self-tolerance and destroy tumor cells, with no requirement for blockade inhibitors such as CTLA4 antibodies and PD-1 inhibitors. Scancell says the platform can potentially be expanded to develop multiple immunotherapeutic agents for different cancers.

Scancell said Monday it received a grant from the Nottingham Technology Grant Fund (N’Tech). Funded by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, N’Tech is designed to support growth and expansion for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the city of Nottingham and vicinity through grants of between £20,000 (about $33,000) and £1 million (more than $1.6 million) per company.

“This funding will allow us to expand our skill base and boost our productivity at this important juncture in the Company’s history,” Richard Goodfellow, Ph.D., one of Scancell’s two joint CEOs, said in a statement.

The other joint CEO and Moditope’s inventor, Lindy Durrant, told GEN Thursday that the company will begin hiring for the three R&D staffers starting this month.

Scancell is one of 25 businesses that have secured a total of more than £2.2 million (more than $3.6 million) in grants toward 450 jobs through N’Tech, Lewis Stringer, business finance manager in the Nottingham City Council’s economic development office, told GEN on Wednesday.

JOBCETERA: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company

  • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals will hire 300 “scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative personnel” by 2016 for a new $300 million biopharmaceutical production facility it will create in Limerick, Ireland, at a former Dell plant within Raheen Business Park, IDA Ireland said December 18.
  • Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company said it will employ about 600 staffers, including research scientists, by 2016 at the new office/R&D facility for which it broke ground Thursday in Cambridge, MA, at 300 Massachusetts Ave.

Share your news of biopharma employment ups, downs, and trends with JobWatch. Please email Alex Philippidis at [email protected] or via Twitter at @AlexWestchester.

Previous articleRoche to Use Santaris’ LNA Platform in RNA-Targeted Alliance
Next articlemiRNAs in Neurodegenerative Diseases Focus of InteRNA, UCB, and U of Bonn Pact