Acceleron Pharma Cuts 40 Percent of Workforce

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated: 3:57 pm Eastern] One of the hot privately-held biotech companies in the Boston area, Acceleron Pharma, has made some significant job cuts.

The Cambridge, MA-based company eliminated 57 jobs, or about 40 percent of its workforce, late last month, according to a story first reported today in the Boston Globe. Acceleron’s vice president of corporate development, Steve Ertel, confirmed in a phone interview that the company made the cuts a couple weeks ago after striking a partnership with U.K.-based Shire. Acceleron now has about 90 employees.

[Update with company comment.] “We decided to right-size the organization to take advantage of our position of strength,” and reduce the company’s cash burn rate, Ertel says. The cuts were made across departments, in order to maintain the company’s expertise in manufacturing, discovery research, protein engineering, and clinical development, Ertel says.

Acceleron’s cutbacks are surprising given that the company has made a lot of headway in the past couple years, striking partnerships with big companies like Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), and most recently with U.K.-based Shire. Acceleron, founded in 2004, has raised about $100 million in venture capital from a big-name VC crew that includes Advanced Technology Ventures, Flagship Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, Venrock Associates, MPM Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, and Sutter Hill Ventures.

In late September, Acceleron CEO John Knopf told my colleague Ryan McBride about how he hoped the new partnership with Shire would enable the company to wean itself off any dependence on venture capital.

Acceleron has been putting its money to work building a pipeline of experimental drugs, and infrastructure to manufacture protein drugs in-house. Some of the more visible work is going on to combat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, cancer, and anemia caused by chemotherapy.