Drug R&D is a tough business. The odds are almost always against success, and the price to be paid for being wrong is cruelly high. That said, it did seem a little harder than usual this year to...
Two weeks after Verastem was forced to acknowledge that its lead cancer drug had flopped badly in a clinical study for mesothelioma, founder and Executive Chairman Christoph Westphal has brought out the ax and chopped half the staff. Verastem acknowledged the move after the markets closed on Thursday, hours after word of the cuts began buzzing throughout the Boston biotech hub.
A little more than a month ago Verastem had to mount a hasty defense of its lead drug defactinib (VS-6063) after an abstract hit the Twittersphere outlining poor efficacy and serious adverse events in its study for non-small cell lung cancer. This morning, though, the biotech could do little except acknowledge that the same drug had failed its most advanced study for mesothelioma.
Shares of Verastem cratered Wednesday morning as the Twitter crowd passed around an abstract on the company's defactinib (VS-6063), highlighting an extremely poor response rate for KRAS mutant non-small cell lung cancer.
Like many biotech companies, The Cambridge, MA-based cancer drug developer, whose shares had slumped after its IPO early last year, has seen its share price spike in recent weeks amid mounting interest in the sector from public investors.
Verastem has changed CEOs as the company seeks to translate stem cell discoveries into powerful new cancer drugs. Biotech entrepreneur and Verastem co-founder Christoph Westphal is stepping down from the chief executive post, and president and COO Robert Forrester will take the top job at the company and join the board of directors on July 1.
Verastem's quest to develop drugs that block cell signaling pathways that cancer stem cells need to survive hits a major milestone in mid-2013, when it launches a 350-patient clinical trial of a potential companion biomarker test for its investigative mesothelioma drug treatment.
Verastem has signed on with LabCorp to validate biomarkers and develop companion diagnostics for VS-6063, the company's in-development mesothelioma treatment.
In a series of rapid-fire press releases over the past 18 hours, cancer drug upstart Verastem vaulted to the threshold of Phase II with an in-licensing deal with Pfizer, announced a development pact with Eisai and ran through a series of highlights for its R&D day review.
A year after scoring a $20 million milestone from Bayer, OncoMed Pharmaceuticals is preparing to see if it can generate enough excitement from investors for its cancer stem cell work to support a $115 million IPO.