Rigel Pharmaceuticals said today it has eliminated 38% of its workforce—46 jobs—in a restructuring intended to refocus the company on commercializing its Phase III chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) candidate fostamatinib.

The 46 jobs consist mostly of research positions. The company’s reduced research department will continue identifying and developing novel small molecules, as well as maintaining active programs in immunology and oncology, Rigel said.

The restructuring follows the release last month of results in the first of two pivotal studies for fostamatinib, an oral spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) inhibitor. Rigel announced August 30 that fostamatinib met its primary endpoint in the trial, as 18% of patients receiving the drug candidate achieved a stable platelet response compared to none receiving a placebo control.

But in a conference call elaborating on the results, Rigel acknowledged that 39 of 51 patients randomized to fostamatinib experienced treatment-related adverse events—77% compared with 7 of 25 placebo patients or 28%.

Results from the second Phase III trial are expected in late October or early November, Rigel said. The company has said it expects to submit an NDA to the FDA in the first quarter of 2017 if the second trial yields positive results.

Fostamatinib is an oral SYK inhibitor designed to work by blocking Immunoglobulin G receptor signaling in both macrophages and B cells via SYK. Fostamatinib is also the subject of Phase II trials for autoimmune hemolytic anemia and for Immunoglobulin A nephropathy.

The restructuring is projected to generate approximately $17 million to $20 million in annual savings. The company said it is still assessing the full charges associated with the job cuts—which it said will include approximately $5.7 million in cash-related restructuring expenses expected to be recorded predominantly in the third quarter.

Rigel also said one of its co-founders, Donald G. Payan, M.D., has retired from the company’s board as well as from his position as evp and president of discovery and research.

“Dr. Payan’s resignation was not the result of any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies, or practices,” Rigel stated in a regulatory filing.

Rigel has named Eldon C. Mayer III, the company’s new evp and chief commercial officer, to oversee the launch of fostamatinib, including establishing and managing a commercial organization. He previously led Questcor Pharmaceuticals' commercial strategy and functions, which included a product launch into multiple indications and physician audiences that according to Rigel resulted in “considerable” increases in Questcor's sales revenue during his tenure. Before Questcor, he held commercial management roles for Connetics, Chiron, Alza, and Schering-Plough.

“We have reached an important threshold with fostamatinib where we need the capabilities of an experienced CCO to take fostamatinib into its next phase,” Rigel President and CEO Raul Rodriguez said in a statement.

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