West Coast Editor

Add to the list of companies cutting back to save cash Dyax Corp., which said it will cut 21 of its 133 employees on the biopharmaceutical side of the business, thereby conserving $4 million to $5 million annually, and keep enough capital for two more years of operation.

"It's the objective to always have two years of cash in the bank," said Sondra Henrichon, director of investor relations for Cambridge, Mass.-based Dyax.

"We say two years, but what we mean by that number is that we believe we can take the company through 2004," she added.

Dyax uses phage display technology to identify proteins, peptides and antibodies that bind with high affinity and high specificity to targets.

"We'll still look at the same number of targets, but we're reducing the number of libraries to screen those against," Henrichon told BioWorld Today. "Generally speaking, there will be more focus on antibodies," with some preclinical peptides, she said.

Although the company also is reducing the scope of its discovery research, programs in cystic fibrosis, hereditary angioedema and cardiopulmonary bypass won't be affected. Dyax has two recombinant proteins in mid-stage trials. DX-88, which inhibits the blood enzyme kallikrein, is in a Phase II trial for hereditary angioedema and a second Phase II for cardiopulmonary bypass. DX-890, which inhibits neutrophil elastase, is in a Phase I/II trial for cystic fibrosis.

The company also has licensing deals and collaborations, such as the pact made in May with AstraZeneca plc, of London, which will use Dyax's phage display technology on an undisclosed neurological and metabolic disease target. (See BioWorld Today, May 15, 2002.)

A subsidiary of Dyax, Biotage Inc. (the name under which Dyax was incorporated in 1989), develops, manufactures and sells chromatography separations systems and products worldwide for drug discovery and purification.

"We pretty much operate as two separate companies," Henrichon said, noting that the 16 percent staff reduction "would be much lower" if Biotage's 120 workers were included.

The workers were let go at the Cambridge facility and in Liege, Belgium. Dyax will take a one-time charge of about $650,000 in the third quarter of this year as a result of the restructuring.

Henrichon said the savings come not only through severance.

"Also associated is any expense that would have been incurred, like lab supplies and space, which becomes available to potentially lease," she said.

Dyax's stock (NASDAQ:DYAX) fell 8 cents Tuesday to close at $2.06.