Neurana, Aurobindo and ORIC Face Tough Decisions, Layoffs


Privately-held Neurana Pharmaceuticals is facing dire financial straits following the failure of its Phase III treatment for muscle spasm relief associated with an acute, painful musculoskeletal condition. The San Diego-based company is now exploring all strategic options, including a potential dissolution of the business.

On Tuesday, Neurana announced the failure of the late-stage RESUME-1 study of tolperisone, which did not meet the study's primary or secondary endpoints. Neurana hoped tolperisone would relieve pain after 14 days of treatment. However, by the end of the two-week period, tolperisone did not demonstrate significance compared to placebo.

Given the result of the Phase III RESUME-1 trial, the board of directors of Neurana has reduced headcount and spending of company resources while it explores all strategic alternatives. The board said if it cannot identify any alternatives, the company may be sold off or dissolved.

In its announcement, Neurana did not indicate how many of its employees would be terminated due to this decision. Nor did the company share information regarding its available cash runway.

This week, Neurana was not the only company facing difficulties leading to job losses.

Aurobindo Pharma is closing a facility in New Jersey. According to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification post with that state, the closure of the manufacturing facility will result in the loss of 99 jobs. The terminations will take effect by April 26, according to the notice, first reported by STAT.

Aurobindo said the company opted to close the site under its AuroLife business unit and will continue to pay employees their wages through the 60-day notice period. The company did not provide additional details regarding the closing of the site. STAT noted in its report that the company, based in India, did not return calls.

Bay Area-based ORIC Pharmaceuticals also hit a setback this week. In its year-end financial report, Oric announced the discontinuation of its lead drug candidate ORIC-101, which was being assessed in several early-stage cancer studies. ORIC-101 was being assessed in Phase 1b studies in metastatic prostate cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, ovarian cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, and other advanced solid tumors.

The company conducted planned interim analyses of two Phase Ib studies and concluded that ORIC-101 did not demonstrate sufficient clinical activity to warrant further development.

With the discontinuation of ORIC-101, the company now intends to focus its resources on developing three early-stage candidates: ORIC-533, an orally bioavailable CD73 inhibitor; ORIC-114, a brain penetrant EGFR/HER2 inhibitor; and ORIC-944, an embryonic ectoderm development inhibitor. Each of those candidates is in Phase Ib and the company anticipates initial data in the first half of 2023.

ORIC chief executive officer Jacob M. Chacko, MD, said the company has a current cash runway that will carry it through 2024.

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