XenoPort hits reset after a psoriasis setback, cutting jobs and bailing on R&D

XenoPort ($XNPT) has changed its tune on an investigational psoriasis therapy, no longer insisting that the drug's middling efficacy and alarming safety profile merit late-stage development. Instead, the biotech is dumping the drug, cutting payroll and waving away its co-founder and CEO.

The move follows September's release of mixed Phase II results for the company's top clinical asset, an oral psoriasis drug called XP23829, that sent XenoPort's share price sharply downward. Reversing its earlier plans of moving into Phase III next year, the company is now discontinuing all development of XP23829, hoping to put the drug's future in the hands of a partner. XenoPort has the same ambition for the rest of its pipeline, too, the company said, looking to hand off in-development treatments for Parkinson's disease and addiction.

In tandem, XenoPort is cutting 25 jobs, including the XP23829 team, by Dec. 23. Also on the way out is CEO Ronald Barrett, who helped start the company in 2009. Barrett's retirement is effective immediately, XenoPort said, and taking his place is Chief Operating Officer Vincent Angotti.

XenoPort has a single approved asset, the restless legs syndrome treatment Horizant, and is now putting its entire operation behind that. The drug, approved in 2012, has long been a sales disappointment, and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) bailed on its stake in Horizant shortly after launch.

But XenoPort's new leadership believes the drug's best days lie ahead. The company expanded its sales team to 120 reps in July, and Angotti said in a statement XenoPort is now "well positioned to expand our educational efforts and increase access to Horizant and thereby meaningfully benefit many more patients."

- read the statement