BioTransplant Inc.'s new CEO, Donald Hawthorne, has begun implementing a restructuring plan that resulted in a 23 percent reduction in the work force, among other things.

Hawthorne, whose appointment to the top post was reported by the Charlestown, Mass.-based company July 22, also is implementing other changes. The new focus is on accelerating sales of Eligix Inc. products, a company that BioTransplant acquired in a $55 million deal in December 2000, and the revision of its clinical development strategy for the AlloMune System. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 12, 2000.)

"We have a very clear two-part mission," Hawthorne told BioWorld Today. "We have a team that is focused on those two opportunities; all of our goals are driven off making those two events happen."

BioTransplant is reducing its staff from 82 to 62, Hawthorne said, with staff cuts "across the board." The company said in a prepared statement that the job cuts will reduce the cash burn rate by 25 percent, giving it enough cash to last until late in the third quarter 2003. The company's cash position was $10 million as of March 31, with a net loss of $6.6 million for the quarter. BioTransplant raised $9.7 million in June.

BioTransplant also said the receipt of potential milestone payments could make existing cash last into the fourth quarter 2003.

"We will manage the business to ensure that we are not dependent on milestone payments," Hawthorne said.

Last week, the company reported that it won marketing approval in Europe for the Eligix CD8-SC Cell Separation System. The system is intended for ex vivo use for patients receiving allogeneic bone marrow and peripheral stem cell transplantation for blood disorders. The CD8-SC Cell Separation System is the company's third high-density microparticle (HDM) cell separation product to gain approval in Europe. Gambro BCT, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gambro AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, has rights to distribute Eligix products worldwide, except in the U.S., Canada and Japan. It markets the cell separation family of products in Europe for use in bone marrow, stem cell and donor leukocyte transplants.

The company also is revising its clinical development strategy for the AlloMune System, which is designed to allow transplantation more safely and with fewer side effects. The strategy involves employing kits consisting of siplizumab in combination with products that already have been approved in the U.S., the company said.

Siplizumab, or MEDI-507, which was exclusively licensed to MedImmune Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md., in 1995, is in Phase II trials for psoriasis. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 18, 2001, and Oct. 13, 1995.)

The revised strategy includes the filing of an investigational new drug application by the fourth quarter to begin a Phase I/II trial of siplizumab as part of a kit with an already approved drug for use in mini-transplant patients. The company said the trial will include matched-related and matched-unrelated patients.

BioTransplant said Massachusetts General Hospital plans to begin in the fourth quarter a mismatched Phase I trial using siplizumab in combination with an FDA-approved ex vivo purging device, for all hematological malignancies. The trial is scheduled to include about 30 patients.

BioTransplant's stock (NASDAQ:BTRN) fell 5.9 cents Tuesday to close at $2.06.

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