Opexa sheds 30% of its workforce as it awaits make-or-break MS data

Opexa CFO Karthik Radhakrishnan

Opexa Therapeutics ($OPXA) is laying off 30% of its staff to conserve cash as it works through Phase IIb with a multiple sclerosis therapy, hoping to come through with positive results that can extend its runway.

The Texas biotech is cutting 10 employees, including Chief Financial Officer Karthik Radhakrishnan, in a move it says will keep the doors open into the first quarter of next year.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Opexa expects to have top-line data on Tcelna, a Merck KGaA-partnered therapy for secondary progressive MS, an advanced form of the disease.

The study enrolled 190 patients to test whether Tcelna, a personalized therapy, can stop the immune system from attacking nerve tissue and thus halt the progression of MS.

Merck KGaA bought into the idea in 2013, paying Opexa $5 million up front. If Tcelna succeeds in Phase IIb, Merck KGaA has the option of paying another $25 million to take into Phase III trials, and Opexa is in line for as much as $225 million total.

Opexa expects to record a one-time charge of $325,000 tied to its layoffs. The company reported having about $15.6 million in cash and equivalents as of Sept. 30.

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