Affymax Cuts 230 Jobs, Mulls Bankruptcy, After Drug Withdrawal

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Big cuts were inevitable at Affymax the past few weeks, and confirmation came today.

Palo Alto, CA-based Affymax (NASDAQ: AFFY) said today that the company is cutting 230 people from its payroll, about 75 percent of its workforce. The job cuts affected people in the company’s commercial side and medical affairs, as well as other officers and employees, the company said today in a statement.

The layoff announcement was the first press release Affymax has made since it disclosed disastrous news on Saturday, Feb. 23. Affymax and its partner, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals, said that day that they voluntarily pulled peginesatide (Omontys) off the U.S. market after learning the drug was linked to a series of severe, and sometimes fatal, allergic reactions. The drug was Affymax’s sole marketed product. It also represents the first serious challenge to Amgen’s 20-year-old monopoly drug that treats anemia in patients undergoing kidney dialysis

Affymax provided no further update today on the status of the medical investigation that’s attempting to find out what went wrong.

“While this decision was extremely difficult, aligning and managing our limited resources around our product investigation is our most important priority,” CEO John Orwin (pictured above) said in a statement.

The company said it also intends to hire a strategic advisor to help it consider various business alternatives, such as a sale of the company, or its remaining assets. Today’s brief statement didn’t attempt to suggest that a buyer is likely to come along and scoop it up. Affymax still hasn’t reported its fourth-quarter financial results, but in its most recent quarterly report, it said it had $100 million of cash in the bank as of Sept. 30.

“The company is considering all possible alternatives, including further restructuring activities, wind-down of operations or even bankruptcy proceedings,” Affymax said.