Washington Editor

GPC Biotech AG reduced its staff by 21 percent in a strategic restructuring plan aimed at accelerating the company's oncology drug discovery and development programs.

Staff reductions will be felt equally in GPC's Martinsried, Germany, facility and in the U.S. plant in Waltham, Mass. Company officials said 42 of 200 positions in the technology research division will be eliminated.

However, Laurie Doyle, senior manager, investor relations and corporate communications, told BioWorld Today the company has a strong cash position, saying the move was "strategic," but adding that it is "of course, difficult for the people affected."

She said the company expects to add jobs in its oncology clinical division.

Of the restructuring, Bernd Seizinger, GPC's president and CEO, said in a prepared statement, "GPC Biotech will continue to develop innovative technologies with the goal of reducing the attrition rate of the current drug discovery and development process, but with an even stronger focus on filling our own drug pipeline."

As for GPC's finances, as of June 30, 2003, the company's cash position, short-term investments and marketable securities totaled $123.2 million. The restructuring is expected to result in an annual cost savings of $4.7 million to $5.9 million, beginning in 2004.

Savings would be invested in the oncology pipeline, the company said. A larger portion of future revenues is expected to come from drug partnering and marketing deals, Doyle said.

The restructuring does not impact GPC's collaboration with Altana Pharma, a division of Altana AG, of Bad Homburg, Germany, to build a research institute in Waltham, Mass. On signing in 2001, the companies valued the five-and-a-half-year deal at $120 million, including $60 million in committed funding to GPC to cover the up-front payment, technology license and implementation fees, as well as research and technology transfer funding. Altana will pay GPC $10 million for a sublease and service agreement. Altana also committed $50 million to the institute for internal research and funding.

A major component of the agreement for GPC is the licensing and collaboration piece requiring the transfer of selective genomics and proteomics technologies to Altana.

Meanwhile, in oncology, GPC and its co-development partner Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc. (formerly NeoTherapeutics Inc.) in September initiated a Phase III registration trial for their lead compound, satraplatin, a proposed second-line chemotherapy in hormone-refractory prostate cancer. If all goes according to plan, the companies would file a new drug application in 2006. The FDA has granted fast-track designation in that indication. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 3, 2003.)

Satraplatin, an oral drug, is part of the platinum family of compounds. The Phase III trial will match satraplatin plus prednisone against prednisone alone in a trial expected to enroll patients numbering in the mid-to-high hundreds. Prednisone is a synthetic hormone often used to treat advanced cancer.

Spectrum, of Irvine, Calif., licensed satraplatin, a third-generation platinum analogue, to GPC in a deal valued at $22 million in October. GPC, which owns worldwide rights to satraplatin, paid a $2 million up-front fee. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 2, 2002.)

Beyond satraplatin, GPC is developing a monoclonal antibody expected to enter the clinic in the second part of 2004 in lymphoid tumors. The company has a cell cycle inhibitor in the preclinical stage. Other products are in research, Doyle said.

GPC has other technology collaborations with Aventis Pharma AG, of Frankfurt, Germany; Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany; Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH, of Ingelheim, Germany; and Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis.