After AL amyloidosis flop, Prothena slashes workforce by 57%

Axe and chopping block
Prothena expects its net loss for 2018 to fall between $80 million and $85 million. (sierramurray)

To say that Prothena had a turbulent year would be an understatement. In the span of a month, the biotech went from inking an R&D deal with Celgene worth up to $2 billion to dumping its lead asset, an AL amyloidosis drug, after it missed its primary and secondary endpoints in a midstage test with a poor prognosis for phase 3. 

Now, the company getting ready to cut its employees by 57% in a reorganization aimed at refocusing its resources to advance what remains in its neuroscience pipeline. This includes candidates it is working on in-house, as well as clinical-stage programs being developed in tandem with Roche and discovery-stage programs under the Celgene collaboration. 

The cuts come from the discontinuation of the AL amyloidosis drug, NEOD001, Prothena said in a statement. Once the reorg is complete, that is, following the "transition of certain employees working to close down the NEOD001 program" and the filling of "several open positions," Prothena will have about 63 staffers. 

The company expects its net loss for 2018 to fall between $80 million and $85 million. This figure includes costs relating to NEOD001 and the reorganization—including R&D and manufacturing expenses, as well as severance costs and contract termination fees related to manufacturing obligations. It also includes about $8 million in share-based compensation. 

"As we move forward, we have the resources to support the advancement of our pipeline through meaningful milestones and we will focus on developing neuroscience programs that we believe have a potential to offer significant benefit to patients," said Prothena CEO Gene Kinney, Ph.D. "This includes our two clinical-stage programs PRX002/RG7935, currently in Phase 2 development in the PASADENA study in patients with early Parkinson's disease, and PRX004, which recently initiated a Phase 1 study in patients with ATTR amyloidosis." 

The Roche-partnered PRX002 is a monoclonal antibody that targets alpha-synuclein, while PRX004 is designed to target and eliminate misfolded forms of the TTR amyloid protein that forms in patients with ATTR amyloidosis. 

On that latter indication, Prothena is chasing the likes of Alnylam, Pfizer and Ionis. Alnylam plans to roll out the RNAi treatment patisiran this year, while Pfizer touted positive phase 3 data for tafamidis in March. As for Ionis, it was jilted last August by GlaxoSmithKline, its commercialization partner for inotersen. But in March, the biotech secured a new one—its own spinout, Akcea Therapeutics.