Five Prime Therapeutics Cuts 20% of Staff as Part of Restructuring

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Based in South San Francisco, Five Prime Therapeutics announced that as part of a restructuring program, it will eliminate 41 current jobs, or about 20 percent of its current headcount. The positions cut will be mostly in areas related to research, pathology and manufacturing.

Five Prime focuses on developing immuno-oncology protein therapeutics. The company’s bemarituzumab (FPA144) is in Phase II with chemotherapy in gastric and GEJ cancer. Its cabiralizumab (FPA008) is in two Phase II trials, one for pancreatic cancer in combination with Opdivo and chemotherapy and another with Opdivo for IL maintenance, as well as two Phase I trials in multiple tumor settings.

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Yesterday the company indicated it was making two presentations at the upcoming 2019 Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium. One is from the Phase I/III FIGHT Study of bemarituzumab and mFOLFOX6 in advanced gastric/GEJ cancer. The other is the study design of the Phase II trial of cabiralizumab in combination with nivolumab and chemotherapy in advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Five Prime expects the restructuring will result in a $10 million decrease in net cash for operations during 2019 compared to 2018, with more savings expected in 2020 and beyond because of lower personnel costs. It estimates $2 million in pre-tax charges for severance and other costs during the first quarter of this year.

It expects to end 2019 with $148 to $153 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. The company doesn’t have any debt and finished 2018 with $270 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. It believes the cash available will be able to fund programs through several data readouts.

“While we are on track for multiple data read-outs and potential phase advances from our pipeline in 2019, the Executive Team and Board felt it was necessary to sharpen our focus on our current clinical programs and the advancement of our later-stage research initiatives,” stated Aron Knickerbocker, Five Prime’s chief executive officer.

He went on to say, “This was a hard decision to make, but we believe that effective use of capital is crucial to supporting our strong pipeline of anti-cancer drug candidates. We remain committed to successfully executing our clinical trials and advancing our later-stage research programs with the same intensity and quality for which Five Prime is known.”

At the company’s third-quarter financial report on November 6, 2018, Knickerbocker noted the company had five programs in the clinic that the company and its partners were advancing “to target multiple immune cell types in the tumor microenvironment, focusing on drugs that demonstrate single-agent activity or activity in tumor types that have been insensitive to checkpoint inhibitors.”

Bemarituzumab is a first-in-class isoform-selective antibody development for tumors that express FGFR2b. One of the trials for this drug is being conducted in North America, Europe and Asia, specifically in China in collaboration with Zai Lab.

Cabiralizumab is an antibody that inhibits CSF1R and blocks the activation and survival of tumor-associated macrophages. This therapy is being investigated with Bristol-Myers Squibb globally in pancreatic cancer, with Stand Up to Cancer and Bristol-Myers Squibb, also in pancreatic cancer, and with Apexigen and Bristol-Myers Squibb in melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer or renal cell carcinoma.

FPA150 is a first-in-class anti-B7-H4 antibody that targets tumor cells by blocking B7-H4 from sending an inhibitory signal to CD8 T-cells and by enhancing killing of B7-H4 overexpressing tumors by ADCC. B7-H4 is often overexpressed in breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.

The other two programs are FPT155, a first-in-class CD80 fusion protein and BMS-986258, a fully-human monoclonal antibody that targets TIM-3, an immune checkpoint receptor. Bristol-Myers Squib is running a Phase I/II trial of the antibody as a monotherapy and in combination with Opdivo and Halozyme’s rHuPH20 enzyme in advanced malignant tumors.

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