Array slashes staff as Amgen pulls the plug on diabetes drug pact

Shares of Array BioPharma ($ARRY) took a nasty dive Wednesday evening after Amgen ($AMGN) dumped an ambitious four-year-old partnership to develop new Type 2 diabetes drugs. The company also said it will have to ax 50 workers--20% of its staff--but a spokesperson tells FierceBiotech the cuts were not related to Amgen's decision to dump the diabetes program.

Array's shares dropped close to 8% on the news, buried deep in its quarterly results. The lead drug in the Amgen collaboration recently completed a Phase IIa study. And while Array said the data would come later in the year, the news couldn't have been welcome at the Boulder, CO-based biotech.

Array says it will have 200 staffers once it's completed the restructuring. "We reduced discovery staff so it would be funded by our collaborations," Tricia Haugeto emailed FierceBiotech Wednesday night. "Our goal is to retain a robust, cutting-edge discovery capability that down the road can invent new proprietary drugs. Array will continue to focus our development and commercialization efforts on our hem/onc programs."

Array grabbed $60 million upfront in 2009 for the Amgen deal, which gave the big biotech the right to develop AMG-151 (ARRY-403), part of a small-molecule glucokinase activator program. Then last year, Amgen followed up with an $8.5 million milestone payment, achieved after Amgen reached a predefined patient enrollment level in the Phase IIa clinical trial. Amgen was planning on recruiting 224 patients for the study.

Amgen has been aggressive about its pipeline work over the past two years, cutting back in some areas as it shepherds a group of late-stage programs through the clinic. The company has also been expanding its work in Asia while pursuing a takeover of Onyx ($ONXX).

Array, meanwhile, remains active on the partnering front. The biotech forged two new collaborations with over $800 million in potential milestone payments: the first with Loxo Oncology on a preclinical oncology program and the second with Celgene ($CELG) involving a preclinical inflammation program. Array also initiated a collaboration with Oncothyreon ($ONTY) to develop and commercialize ARRY-380, an oral selective HER2 inhibitor, for which Array controls worldwide commercialization rights. 

- here's the press release
- read the Reuters report