Poniard unveils staff cuts, new CEO in restructuring

Faced with a series of disappointing trial results for its cancer drug picoplatin, a cash-strapped Poniard Pharmaceuticals has opted to axe more than half of its staff and named a new CEO to replace Jerry McMahon, who is staying on as nonexecutive chairman. South San Francisco-based Poniard tapped COO Ronald Martell to become CEO and appointed Michael Perry as chief medical officer.

After the restructuring, Poniard will be left with 21 staffers still primarily focused on picoplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy. Last week, investors bailed on the news that the therapy demonstrated a lower overall survival rate for colorectal cancer patients when compared with a standard combination treatment in a mid-stage trial. And the share price slipped 21 percent even though the therapy hit its primary endpoint in the trial. That news followed an announcement last fall that picoplatin failed a late-stage study for small-cell lung cancer.

"The reduction in force is a difficult but necessary step to preserve our resources as we pursue our goals of establishing a regulatory path forward for picoplatin and evaluating our strategic opportunities for this novel therapy," says Martell. "My near-term priority will be to obtain FDA guidance regarding picoplatin's potential regulatory and clinical pathways for continued development."

- check out the press release
- here's the Dow Jones report

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