Bleeding cash, Achillion to cut 20% of workforce

Illustration of sunrise over planet earth in space
Last fall, Johnson & Johnson pulled out of a hepatitis C deal with Achillion that could have been worth as much as $1.1 billion. (Arek Socha)

Johnson & Johnson canned its hepatitis C program with Achillion in September, and the biotech is feeling the burn. Achillion posted a net loss of $23.2 million in the fourth quarter and announced it would reduce its workforce by about 20% to save cash.

The $23.2 million net loss was a more than fourfold increase over the $4.4 million loss reported for the same quarter in 2016. Achillion had no revenue in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with the fourth quarter of 2016, when it reported $15 million under its agreement with J&J’s Janssen, according to a statement. The original tie-up in 2015 involved a $225 million investment in Achillion with a potential $905 million to come in milestones.

And if losing the hep C program wasn’t enough, Achillion’s CMO, David Apelian, jumped ship in December.

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Achillion is now embarking on an operational restructuring geared toward advancing its factor D inhibitors and cutting costs. It will pare down its workforce by 20% to about 70 employees in the hopes of saving about $10 million in 2018, the company said.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson pulls plug on Medivir-Achillion hep C cocktail to focus on hep B

“We are focused on executing against our 2018 strategic objectives with the goal of delivering transformative therapies to patients,” said CEO Milind Deshpande.

“While it is difficult to undertake a restructuring, we believe through efficient use of our capital, we will have the potential to build significant value in our Factor D inhibitor portfolio.”

Achillion will buckle down this year to push its lead candidate, ACH-4471, through the clinic. The candidate is currently in phase 2 studies for C3 glomerulopathy (C3G), a rare kidney disease, and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), a rare disorder where red blood cells break apart prematurely.

The company expects interim data to read out by the end of the year and plans to start two more C3G studies. Achillion will also complete a phase 1 trial of ACH-5228, a next-gen factor D drug designed for the treatment of an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration, in healthy volunteers.

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