The Pipeline Gets the Cash as Zymeworks Trims 25% of Staff

Layoffs Reduced Workforce_Compressed

Zymeworks provided a corporate update today that included a string of clinical trial news. Buried toward the end of the release was news that 50% of its senior management team, or 10 members, are leaving the company. 

In addition, the clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company noted that as part of a company-wide workforce reduction, it will cut its employee headcount by at least 25% by the end of the year.

“While we sincerely understand and appreciate the personal impact of these changes on employees in our organization, starting immediately, a smaller, more focused workforce is essential for us to improve our operating performance and accomplish our key priorities in a more cost-efficient manner,” stated Kenneth Galbraith, new Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the company. 

“I am confident in the ability of our Board of Directors, our new leadership team and our dedicated employees to work effectively together as we move forward to carry out the work that we do every day for the benefit of patients in need, our collective success as a workforce, and in the interests of our stockholders to build a successful and valuable biotechnology company,” Gailbraith continued.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Zymeworks reported $250 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments as of December 31, 2021. That gives the company enough money to operate through at least late 2022.

The company’s agenda provides a rationale for the high burn rate. Its key strategic priorities for this year and 2023 are to fully recruit the HERIZON-BTC-01 Phase III trial for zanidatamab by mid-year and fully recruit another pivotal study for the drug HERIZON-GEA-01, by the end of 2023. It also hopes to complete or close other ongoing early-stage trials for the drug as the data matures and use it to identify and support its future development plans.

Zanidatamab is a HER2 x HER2 bispecific antibody partnered with China’s BeiGene. On December 9, 2021, Zymeworks announced that BeiGene had dosed the first patient in South Korea in the HERIZON-GEA-01 study of zanidatamab in combination with a physician’s choice chemotherapy with or without the PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab compared to trastuzumab and chemotherapy for first-line treatment of advanced or metastatic HER2-positive gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas.

The company also plans to finalize a clear clinical development path for ZW49 using additional data expected this year from the ongoing Phase I study. ZW49, also partnered with BeiGene, is a HER2 X HER2 bispecific antibody-drug conjugate. 

In addition, the company plans to pick and advance two new antibody-drug conjugates or multispecific product candidates using its various therapeutic platforms, Azymetric, ZymeLink, EFECT and ProTECT, to initiate IND-enabling studies. It hopes to submit two Investigational New Drug (IND) applications by the end of 2024. It also hopes to develop new partnerships in support of zanidatamab and its early-stage R&D pipeline.

Galbraith said, “Upon assuming my new role effective January 15th, we have moved quickly to review and confirm key strategic priorities for the near term and to establish a renewed and smaller leadership team focused on accomplishing those priorities in a prompt, high-quality and cost-efficient manner.”


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