HGS to ax 150 as Benlysta sales continue to disappoint

With its share price battered by disappointing initial sales of the pioneering lupus drug Benlysta, Human Genome Sciences CEO Tom Watkins ($HGSI) was preparing to take the stage at the annual JP Morgan conference in San Francisco to announce plans to shed 150 jobs in a range of departments, including R&D.

"We are pioneering a treatment in a market that has not seen a new option for patients in decades," Watkins said in a statement released ahead of his appearance. "Although we are still in the early adoption phase of our launch, our experience in the market to date reinforces our belief that Benlysta will ultimately play a major role in improving the standard of care for SLE patients."

Like other developers making the transition into commercialization, HGS has learned some bitter lessons in the process. HGS reported Benlysta sales of a bit more than $25 million in the fourth quarter, in line with the diminished expectations of analysts after the drug failed to take off as quickly as initially predicted. With the numbers skewing downward, the biotech CEO was forced to trim costs. HGS also outlined its progress with other drug programs in today's release.

- here's the HGS release