Synta cuts another 20% of staff and rallies around its cancer drug

Anne Whitaker

Synta Pharmaceuticals ($SNTA) is again slashing its payroll, cutting costs across the board as it presses ahead with ganetespib, a long-delayed cancer treatment.

The layoffs will trim Synta's existing staff from 113 to 90, the company said, following last year's roughly 15% headcount reduction. The cuts, coupled with a planned consolidation of Synta's office and lab facilities, will conserve cash and help the biotech focus on its advancing its pipeline, the company said.

Leading the way is ganetespib, a small-molecule drug that blocks heat shock protein 90, which is instrumental in tumor growth. The drug is now in the midst of a Synta-sponsored Phase III trial in non-small cell lung cancer with final data expected next year. If ganetespib comes through, the company plans to submit it for FDA approval thereafter.

And beyond its top prospect, Synta is at work on the preclinical STA-12-8666, expecting to file an IND in the first quarter of 2016. The biotech's cost-savings plan will also set aside some money to bring another of its anti-cancer candidates into preclinical development by the end of this year, Synta said.

"The next several quarters hold tremendous potential for bearing out the value of our pipeline," Synta CEO Anne Whitaker said in a statement. "The structural changes we are making within our organization, while difficult decisions, are necessary to help us realize this potential. We are extremely grateful for the contributions of those who will be leaving the company, and we all wish them much success in their future endeavors."

Whitaker took the reins at Synta last year, resigning from her post as head of Sanofi's ($SNY) U.S. pharma operation to lead a turnaround at the biotech.

- read the announcement

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