Icahn-backed Enzon Pharma axing half of workforce

Enzon Pharmaceuticals ($ENZN) is cutting 48% of its employees from its payroll as part of a plan to reign in its workforce numbers and costs to keep in step with its R&D goals. The Piscataway, NJ-based developer of cancer drugs says it'll be moving forward with a leaner 47-person staff by June 2012.

The cuts follow a lackluster second-quarter earnings report last month that included a $7.1 million loss, a drop in royalty revenue and a decrease in other income streams. The company also cut a colorectal cancer program after wrapping a mid-stage study.

Pushed on by activist investor Carl Icahn, the company has made workforce cuts and other strategic moves in recent years. The latest round of layoffs is expected to save the company $6 million annually by the second quarter of 2012. Pink slips were also handed out after the company's announcement in December 2010 that it would cut 33 workers, following a drop in royalty income from the hepatitis C treatment PegIntron. According to a Bloomberg report, the company's chief executive, Jeffrey Buchalter, revealed his departure from the company in February.

Enzon made perhaps its biggest gambit in recent history with the November 2009 deal to sell its specialty pharma unit to Italy's sigma-tau Group for $300 million and $27 million in milestones, letting go four marketed products in the process. That move came to "refocus" the company on its pipeline, royalties business and platform technologies, Chairman Alex Denner, an investment manager for Icahn, said at the time. Harvard genetics Prof. Richard Mulligan and Scripps researcher Thomas Deuel are other Icahn-backed members of Enzon's board.

- here's the release
- see Bloomberg's report
- and the second-quarter earnings release