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Rigel plans job cuts in R&D restructure

Follows failure of fostamatinib disodium in rheumatoid arthritis trial

RigelRigel Pharmaceuticals plans to cut 30 jobs as part of a restructure of its research efforts following the failure of fostamatinib disodium in a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) trial.

The majority of the positions to be eliminated will be in drug discovery, with Rigel looking to focus its pipeline on three lead programmes in relatively late-stage development.

"Strategically, we have made a decision to concentrate our resources on the programmes that we believe hold the greatest potential for a near-term path to market," said James Gower, chairman and chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based biotech

Fostamatinib disodium had been in development as an RA treatment in partnership with AstraZeneca (AZ) after the pharma major acquired rights to the drug in this indication in 2010 keen to benefit from its potential as an oral alternative to current injectable RA drugs.

However, the treatment failed to match AbbVie's market leading therapy Humira (adalimumab) in phase III trials, with AZ handing rights for the drug back to Rigel earlier this year.

Rigel has now given up completely on the development of fostamatinib for the treatment of both rheumatoid arthritis and lymphomna, citing “insufficient efficacy findings from recent clinical trials and the competitive landscape”.

The company still sees promise in fostamatinib in other indications though, and a phase III programme investigating its use in the treatment of immune thrombocytopenic purpura – an autoimmune disorder affecting platelets in the blood – is one of three remaining hopes for Rigel.

The others include a programme for R333, a topical dermatological JAK/ SYK inhibitor for skin disorder discoid lupus erythematosus, and another for R348, a topical ophthalmic JAK/ SYK inhibitor for dry eye.

Both are currently in phase II studies, with results expected in Q4 2013 and Q2 2014, respectively.

Rigel said it expects to advance one of these two molecules into a phase 3 clinical programme by 2015.

Article by
Thomas Meek

9th September 2013

From: Research

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