After years of setbacks, Vical to slash jobs, Astellas drug work

Astellas
Vical says it is stopping all work on its Astellas-partnered CMV vaccine. (Image: Astellas)

Vical has been hit with trial flop after trial flop, from cancer vaccines and herpes vaccines to just last week a cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine licensed from Astellas.

Now, with more than a touch of inevitability, the micro-cap biotech is letting go of around half of its workforce, trimming the number down from 74 staffers to a mere 34, in an attempt to save cash in the longer term.

This will also allow it to “focus its efforts on VL-2397, its antifungal drug product candidate which is entering a pivotal phase 2 clinical trial in the first quarter of 2018, and on completing its phase 2 HSV-2 clinical trial,” according to a statement.

Not included is this focus is the Astellas CMV program; earlier this month, Vical announced this vaccine, dubbed ASP0113, didn’t show a significant improvement in overall survival or reduction in CMV end-organ disease, missing the phase 3 trial’s primary composite endpoint, while also missing its secondary endpoints.

This is the second failure for the med after it also flopped in a midstage kidney transplant test. And it's curtains for Vical’s work here: “The company is terminating all activities related to the ASP0113 program licensed to Astellas Pharma,” it said.

RELATED: Vical’s Astellas-partnered CMV vaccine falls short again, this time in stem cell transplant recipients

“We have carefully evaluated our organization and priorities and are restructuring to extend our cash runway to ensure that our promising HSV-2 vaccine candidate and VL-2397 antifungal drug product candidate is adequately resourced to maximize shareholder value,” said Vijay Samant, Vical’s president and CEO.  

“This has been a very difficult process and we regret the impact this business decision has on our departing employees. We greatly appreciate the hard work and commitment they have shown Vical over the years and wish them the very best in their future endeavors.”

RELATED: Vical shares decimated (again) after herpes vaccine flunks a PhI/II trial

Last night, Vical's shares were marginally up after hours, although its market cap is just $18 million. It ended 2017 with cash and investments of around $60 to $65 million, it says, and expects this to get it to the end of next year.