Wave Life Sciences’ Stumble in Duchenne Leads to 22% Staff Layoff

Xconomy Boston — 

Wave Life Sciences is cutting about 22 percent of its staff as part of a corporate shakeup that follows the company’s decision to stop work on its Duchenne muscular dystrophy programs.

Singapore-based Wave (NASDAQ: WVE), which has its US operations in Cambridge, MA, said in a Feb. 6 regulatory filing it expects to have notified the affected employees by Feb. 10. The restructuring will result in a one-time, $3.5 million charge, which includes severance payments and related costs. According to Wave’s 2018 annual report, the company employed 250 full-time as of Dec. 31, 2018.

Two months ago, Wave announced interim data from an early-stage study testing suvodirsen, an experimental treatment for Duchenne and the company’s lead therapeutic candidate. Duchenne is caused by a geneti mutation that leads to a deficiency of dystrophin, a key muscle protein. The Wave drug was intended to boost the levels of that protein. But the interim analysis of the Phase 1 study showed no change in dystrophin levels from baseline. Based on those findings, the company opted to discontinue work on that drug and others in development for Duchenne.

The corporate shakeup leaves Wave to focus on its experimental treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; spinocerebellar ataxia-3, and central nervous system disorders (CNS), including Huntington’s disease. But the Huntington’s drug has produced mixed data in a preliminary analysis of the Phase 1 study. Last month, Wave announced it would add a higher dose group, which might lead to better results.

Wave also has CNS programs in development under a partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: TAK). The company said in the filing that the cost reductions will not affect work on its drug discovery and development platform, called PRISM. Also left intact are the company’s programs in RNA editing, the liver, and the eyes. The liver programs are being developed in partnership with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).

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