Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (HGSI) to Cut 150 Jobs Amid Modest Benlysta Growth  
1/10/2012 7:29:52 AM

Washington Business Journal by Bill Flook, Staff Reporter

Rockville-based Human Genome Sciences Inc. announced Monday it would cut about 150 jobs in manufacturing, administration and research and development.

In a news release, HGS offered little explanation for the reductions, which "reflect current program and business requirements" and a "continued commitment to more efficient operations." The company is also spiking two early-stage products — HGS1029 (advanced solid and advanced lymphoid tumors) and HGS1025 (ulcerative colitis).

The biotech, which launched its lupus drug Benlysta in the spring, released year-end sales data that was in line with diminished analyst expectations. Net sales for Benlysta stood at $25.7 million in the fourth quarter, up from $18.8 in the prior quarter. From its March 9 approval to the end of 2011, Human Genome racked up net Benlysta sales of $52.3 million.

Goldman Sachs on Dec. 29 reported it would lower its fourth quarter sales estimate for Benlysta to $26 million from $32 million, reflecting weakened November sales.

In a statement, CEO Thomas Watkins said that, despite being in the early phase of the Benlysta launch, “our experience in the market to date reinforces our belief that Benlysta will ultimately play a major role in improving the standard of care for SLE patients.”

SLE is short for systemic lupus erythematosus, a debilitating autoimmune disease for which Benlysta is the first approved treatment in more than 50 years.

The slower than expected rollout of Benlysta has battered Human Genome’s share price. The stock swung up modestly on Monday’s news, up about 2.8 percent to $7.94 per share in mid-morning trading.