Actelion will slash 135 staffers, refocus on rare diseases in R&D shakeup

Now that Switzerland's Actelion ($ATLN) believes it has the data necessary to win an approval for its successor to Tracleer, the Swiss biotech company is opting to shift gears, trimming up to 135 staffers as it refocuses on new therapies for rare diseases and specialty pharma. The ax will fall most heavily on its headquarters facility in Allschwil.

Actelion's claim to fame has rested almost entirely on the fate of Tracleer, which has sustained an organization which had more than 2,500 workers at the end of last year. Barclays' Michael Leuchten told Bloomberg that the announced cuts were "a bit more" than Actelion had been discussing a couple of months ago. But he endorsed the decision to cut costs, calling it "the right thing."

"In order to take full advantage of the growth opportunities ahead of us, we must take decisive action now," Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Clozel said in a statement. "We will maintain the earning power of our business, thereby balancing long-term growth opportunities with short-term profitability enhancement.

At the end of April investigators announced that a 10 mg dose of macitentan reduced the risk of mortality and morbidity in patients with PAH 45% compared with a placebo, while the 3 mg dose cut the same risks 30%. It managed those results without evidence of liver toxicity, giving it an edge on Tracleer, a drug that provides 87% of Actelion's revenue. And in this heated M&A environment, the promising Phase III quickly triggered fresh speculation of a possible buyout. 

- get the press release
- here's the Bloomberg report

Special Report: Actelion - The biggest R&D spenders in biotech