After rosiptor's phase 3 rout, Aquinox to cut staff by 53%

ax in a tree stump
Astellas licensed rosiptor from Aquinox in May for $25 upfront, with an additional $130 million in milestone payments on the line. (Markus Spiske)

Aquinox Pharmaceuticals is pushing ahead with a restructuring plan that will cut its workforce by 53% and shutter its site in San Bruno, California. The Vancouver-based biotech is trying to stay alive after a phase 3 failure of its bladder pain drug, rosiptor, led it to dump the program altogether. 

With the reorganization, Aquinox is aiming to streamline its operating costs and "better align the Company’s workforce with the needs of its business," the company said in an SEC filing Wednesday. Severance and other costs—including the closing of the San Bruno office—will come to about $2.5 million. 

Aquinox, already down thanks to the phase 3 failure, slipped 10% in premarket trading. 


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In late June, the company reported topline data showing that rosiptor did not beat placebo in female patients with bladder pain syndrome. 

“Patients improved from start to finish, but it didn’t matter whether you took placebo or drug,” said Aquinox CEO David Main at the time. 

Abandoning rosiptor included stopping a phase 2 trial testing the drug in chronic prostatitis that had only recently begun dosing. 

RELATED: Astellas to pay Aquinox $25M upfront for regional rights to phase 3 inflammatory pain drug 

“This is a disappointing result for Aquinox and for patients,” Main said. “We will be undertaking a thorough evaluation of our pipeline and other strategic options available to the company and will be in a position to provide further guidance later this year.” 

The disappointing data came soon after Astellas forked over $25 million to license rosiptor in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Under the deal, Aquinox stood to collect up to $130 million in development and commercial milestones, a potential ongoing source of income from a drug that has seen its fair share of speed bumps. In 2015, rosiptor missed its primary endpoint in a midphase trial in patients with bladder pain syndrome, but Aquinox pressed ahead into phase 3 anyway. 

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