Aeterna Zentaris slashes R&D, sets sights on potential commercial ops

Aeterna Zentaris CEO David Dodd

Ever since its stock went into a tailspin a year ago after the Phase III flop for the multiple myeloma drug perifosine, Canada's Aeterna Zentaris has been trying to orchestrate a turnaround, focusing on its best prospects for near-term approvals while creating a blueprint for commercial operations. Today the company ($AEZS) followed up with a restructuring of its R&D side, saying that it plans to lay off staffers and reduce its headcount by 25 by the end of the year.

The goal here, says CEO David Dodd, who was recruited last spring, is to "streamline R&D activities and increase commercial operations and flexibility." The Quebec City-based biotech's shares are up slightly this morning.

A few weeks ago Aeterna execs laid out plans to create a "commercial hub" in Charleston, SC. With the help of state economic development officials, the biotech noted, over the next 5 years it will create new jobs for its "commercial operations, business development, regulatory and quality assurance and manufacturing management."

"These difficult but prudent and necessary decisions ensue from our recent in-depth review of all of the company's activities, mainly of our drug discovery activities in order to streamline our operations, optimize our resources and R&D productivity, reduce our operating cash burn and more appropriately, align our financial resources with our strategic goal of transitioning into a commercially operating specialty biopharmaceutical company," Dodd said in a statement. "Through this global resources optimization program, we expect to become more efficient and better focused on the potential launch of MACRILENTM for the evaluation of adult growth hormone deficiency, on the required patient recruitment to secure a first interim analysis for our current Phase 3 ZoptEC trial in endometrial cancer, as well as on the future development of some of our promising Erk inhibitor compounds."

- here's the release