Cancer therapeutics firm OncoMed is halving its workforce in a bid to save cash, after a disastrous 2 weeks during which its two lead candidates failed in Phase II trials and partner Bayer Pharma decided not to exercise its option to license another two clinical candidates. OncoMed said it would now concentrate its efforts on earlier-stage clinical programs and look for new partners for some of its drug candidates.

The layoffs, announced late yesterday, will save about $60 million over the next 2 years and leave 64 full-time staff, the firm states. OncoMed now expects to have enough cash to support operations through to the last quarter of 2019, excluding any revenues it may earn from existing or new partnerships.  Earlier this month the firm said it ended the first quarter of 2017 with $156.9 million in cash and short-term investments.

“With this restructuring, we expect to have greater than 2 years of cash to support operations focused on driving our rosmantuzumab, navicixizumab, and anti-TIGIT clinical-stage programs to $98 million in potential development milestone payments while advancing our immuno-oncology discovery-stage portfolio,” stated Paul J. Hastings, OncoMed’s chairman and CEO, on announcement of the job cuts. “We plan to also explore partnering opportunities for our Wnt pathway and immuno-oncology agents to which we have worldwide rights.”

OncoMed reported just over a week ago that the Phase II PINNACLE study evaluating its anti-Notch2/3 candidate tarextumab combined with chemotherapy failed to meet both its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS) and secondary endpoints. The placebo-controlled study combined tarextumab with etoposide plus either cisplatin or carboplatin chemotherapy
in patients with previously untreated extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer (SCLC).

On announcing the tarextumab trial failure, OncoMed also confirmed that it would stop a Phase Ib study evaluating its Notch1-targeting anticancer stem cell candidate brontictuzumab combined with Lonsurf® (trifluridine and tipiracil) as third-line therapy in colorectal cancer patients, because the combined treatment couldn’t be tolerated in that patient population. 

A week earlier, OncoMed reported that the Phase II YOSEMITE trial evaluating the anti-delta-like 4 (anti-DLL4) candidate demcizumab in combination with chemotherapy also failed to meet both its primary PFS endpoint and secondary overall survival endpoint. The study combined demcizumab with Abraxane® and gemcitabine in previously untreated patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.  OncoMed has been developing demcizumab in partnership with Celgene as part of the firms’ potentially multi-billion dollar collaboration to develop up to six anticancer stem cell candidates. The firm said it was now waiting to complete and analyze data from the Phase II DENALI study, which is also due to report during the first half of this year. DENALI is evaluating demcizumab in combination with chemotherapy in patients with Stage IV nonsquamous non-small-cell lung cancer. 


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