Pain intensifies for AbbVie as it slashes 178 jobs from Stemcentrx

The biopharma put as much as $10 billion on the table for Stemcentrx. (AbbVie)

It was a $6 billion deal that was meant to help bolster AbbVie’s pipeline and help wean the biopharma off its Humira reliance, but Stemcentrx has proven to be a major thorn in its side. Now, the time has come to start digging it out.

A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification reports that AbbVie is culling 178 jobs from Stemcentrx, a biotech it spent $5.8 billion on, with up to $10 billion on the table in total back in 2016.

The big lure from Stemcentrx was its cancer drug, known as Rova-T, but a string of failures and weak results saw the biopharma take a $4 billion impairment charge at the start of the year after a phase 3 flop in lung cancer. This made the deal one of the worst biotech M&As in recent memory.


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Stemcentrx will now take the brunt of this pain. The WARN filing shows the cuts will come out of its base in South San Francisco, with the 178 cuts being classed as “permanent.” In 2016, the company had 240 employees.

In December of last year, AbbVie said would stop enrollment in a phase 3 trial of Rova-T, specifically in lung cancer patients. The decision came after a data monitoring committee found that patients taking Rova-T had worse survival rates than patients in the control arm.

This was the latest setback in a round of poor shows from AbbVie coming after it abandoned its plans to seek an accelerated FDA approval for Rova-T as a third-line treatment for relapsed or refractory small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

The company made that call after the drug turned up weak phase 2 data. Of the 177 patients in the open-label test, the best overall response rate was 29%, with objective response rate at just 16%. The median overall survival was 5.6 months. 

AbbVie did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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