As part of Eisai Company’s Strategic Plan, Morphotek Subsidiary Cuts 27 Jobs as Part of Restructuring

Published: Mar 23, 2016

As part of Eisai Co.’s Strategic Plan, Morphotek Subsidiary Cuts 27 Jobs as Part of Restructuring
March 23, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Exton, Penn.-based Morphotek recently cut 27 jobs as part of its parent company’s strategic plan. Morphotek is owned by Tokyo-based Eisai Co., Ltd. , which has U.S. headquarters in North Jersey.

Morphotek focuses on developing drugs to treat cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases. It currently has ongoing clinical studies in ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, colorectal carcinoma, sarcoma, mesothelioma and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and asthma.

Eisai acquired the company in 2007 for $325 million. Recently Eisai announced a strategic plan called E-Way 2025. “To align with our strategic direction,” the company said in a statement, “Morphotek refocused its research efforts, realigned its clinical group and streamlined support functions, leading to the elimination of 27 positions. This was a difficult decision but essential to align with our new business objectives as part of the E-Way 2025 plan. We are deeply grateful to our employees for their dedication and many contributions to Morphotek’s business and are keenly aware of the impact this restructuring will have on them and their families. Morphotek will work to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for those who are displaced.”

Morphotek currently employs 140 people at its facilities in Chester County, N.J.

On Feb. 3, Morphotek announced a collaboration deal with researchers at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. on a clinical study of breast cancer patients. Supported by a $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, it will evaluate 280 patients in a Phase II trial of an anti-FRA vaccine. FRA is folate receptor alpha, and the specific type of breast cancers being evaluated are FRA positive, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“We are excited about this clinical study with Mayo Clinic in the field of anti-FRA therapy,” said Daniel O’Shannessy, head of translational medicine and diagnostics at Morphotek, in a statement. “The FRA pathway and development of potential FRA-positive cancer treatments are a key focus of Morphotek. The use of FRA diagnostics in TNBC complements our current development strategy with our investigational agent, farletuzumab, which is being tested in cancers known to express FRA.”

And on Dec. 16, 2015, the company announced it had inked a second collaboration and licensing agreement with BioCare Medical to develop and commercialize an immunohistochemical (IHC) diagnostic kit that uses Morphotek’s monoclonal antibody to detect mesothelin.

Mesothelin is a protein found on the surface of cells, which is over-expressed in a number of cancers, including mesothelioma, non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma, pancreatic and ovarian cancers. Because its expression is variable among different cancer types, it is hoped that a sensitive diagnostic assay will be able to better diagnose and treat patients with mesothelin-expressing cancers.

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