Layoffs Hit Optimer Following Cubist Buyout

Xconomy New York — 

Cubist Pharmaceuticals may have added some punch to its antibiotics portfolio by buying Optimer Pharmaceuticals a few months ago, but as is often the case with M&A deals, the buyout is also precipitating a lot of job cuts.

The Jersey Journal reported today that Cubist is laying off as many as 177 employees of Jersey City, NJ-based Optimer in the wake of the buyout. Cubist spokeswoman Julie DiCarlo told Xconomy that almost all of the affected positions are sales roles and office positions at Optimer’s soon to be shuttered headquarters in New Jersey. She didn’t have any further information as to whether positions in other Optimer locations in San Diego or Canada would be affected as well.

“If there are any roles impacted in San Diego or Canada, it would be [in] much smaller numbers,” she said.

When Cubist completed the Optimer buyout in October, it told employees that Optimer’s Jersey City headquarters would be closed in 2014 and notified the workers who were getting cut. All of those employees will remain with Cubist until at least the end of the year, and potentially a little longer. DiCarlo said Cubist is working with affected employees to see if there are other jobs for them either at its Massachusetts headquarters or elsewhere in the organization. Those who don’t find a new role will get a severance package and support searching for new jobs, she said.

“The 177 number being reported is the largest number of layoffs there will be, and that number will only go down as we hope to place some Optimer employees into other roles at Cubist,” she said.

Lexington, MA-based Cubist paid $551 million for Optimer, one of two big acquisitions it made on the same day in July (the other being a $707 million buyout of San Diego-based Trius Therapeutics) in a big move to lessen its reliance on its primary revenue driver, daptomycin (Cubicin). In acquiring Optimer, Cubist got an already marketed product called fidaxomicin (Dificid), which treats a dangerous hospital-related infection called C. difficile.

Though Optimer won FDA approval of fidaxomicin in 2011, turmoil followed. The drug didn’t gain quick traction in the market, and shortly thereafter, the company ousted its CEO, Pedro Lichtinger and put itself up for sale. Cubist made the most sense as a buyer given it had already struck a deal to co-market fidaxomicin with Optimer in April 2011.