Chimerix axes staffers, conserves cash in wake of a PhIII failure

Chimerix CFO Tim Trost

Now that Chimerix has had to scrap its Phase III program for brincidofovir, the biotech has slashed its workforce by 20% as it regroups around smaller studies with more than $300 million in the bank.

Durham, NC-based Chimerix had 131 staffers at the end of December, according to its 10-K, implying that it handed out pink slips to 26 workers.

Investigators for the biotech ($CMRX) fingered a set of side effects triggering the use of corticosteroids for the failure of its lead late-stage study for the antiviral, focused on reducing the rate of cytomegalovirus infection. The study also demonstrated a spike in the deaths of patients in the drug arm compared to the placebo group. Now Chimerix is shifting focus to a preclinical IV formulation that the biotech believes can be used without the troublesome corticosteroids. In the meantime, the biotech is cutting costs to conserve the $343 million in cash that it had in the bank at the end of 2015.

"In light of the SUPPRESS results, in early 2016 we completed an approximate 20 percent reduction in our workforce," says Tim Trost, the CFO of Chimerix, in a statement. "We expect our research and corporate expenses to trend downward this year prior to discussions with regulators and agreement on further clinical development requirements. Once that path forward has been set, we would expect to provide more granular expense guidance."

Chimerix posted a loss of $117.4 million in 2015, leaving it with enough capital to continue to fund a pared-down operation for three years.

Brincidofovir--which is the company's sole focus--is a lipid-conjugated version of cidofovir specifically designed to amp up the antiviral impact with a pill while sparing kidneys from a toxic threat. Its ability to get into cells more effectively than cidofovir has been touted as a far more effective counterpunch to 5 DNA viral infections. In a small open-label pilot study driven by the compassionate-use case of young Josh Hardy, the antiviral was successful in dramatically reducing the rate of adenovirus infections.

- here's the release