Argos Slashes 13% of Workforce to Complete a Phase III Study Under Budget, COO Resigns

Published: Apr 21, 2016

Argos Slashes 13% of Workforce to Complete a Phase III Study Under Budget, COO Resigns April 21, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

DURHAM, N.C. – Argos Therapeutics stock has dropped about 20 percent since Monday after the North Carolina-based company announced it was slashing 13 percent of its workforce to free up capital to support the late stage clinical trial of its experimental drug, AGS-003, for metastatic renal cell carcinoma.

As a result of the decision, 18 employees will be handed pink slips by the end of April. The terminations will result in the company maintaining about 117 employees, according to a Street Insider report, which cited an Argos filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In the filing, Argos said it anticipates the layoffs to cost the company about $400,000, but provide savings of about $2.3 million in reduced operations costs.

Jeff Abbey, chief executive officer of Argos, told the Triangle Business Journal that the cuts were necessary in order to stretch funding to see the Phase III trial to completion.

“We needed to become a bit more efficient and cost effective,” Abbey told the Journal.

Not only is Argos cutting 13 percent of its workforce, but the company said Fred Miesowicz, Argos’ chief operating officer, announced his resignation, effective April 22. Miesowicz is expected to remain on through 2017 in a consulting role before retiring, Argos said.

Argos’ stock hit a year high of $12.44 per share on Monday, before dropping to $7.94 per share this morning. In December, Argos’ stock was trading as low as $1.69 per share.

Raleigh, N.C.-based WRAL said the cuts come two years after Argos had pledged to build a 100,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Durham and create approximately 230 jobs.

The workforce reductions are not expected to negatively impact Argos’ ongoing Phase III trial of AGS-003. Argos anticipates mid-point trial data of its immunotherapy by June of this year.

Immunotherapy is one of the areas of cancer research many companies, such as AstraZeneca , Genentech , Clovis Oncology , Kite Pharmaceuticals and more, are focusing on for cancer treatments. Immunotherapy is a treatment approach that focuses on harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Scientists are using various approaches to trigger immune system responses, including the use of checkpoint inhibitors.

Argos’ AGS-003 is an individualized immunotherapy that is designed to capture mutated and variant antigens specific to an individual’s tumor. The drug is also designed to induce an immune response targeting that patient's tumor antigens. During a Phase II study of AGS-003 combined with the chemotherapy drug, sunitinib, the treatment yielded a median overall survival of more than 30 months in newly diagnosed, unfavorable (intermediate and poor) risk mRCC patients, the company said in December.

Argos’ Arcelis technology platform is designed to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancers and other diseases by producing a durable memory T-cell response without adjuvants that may be associated with toxicity. The proprietary process uses RNA isolated from the patient's disease sample to program dendritic cells to target disease specific antigens. The activated, antigen-loaded dendritic cells are then formulated into the patient's plasma and administered via intradermal injection.

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