Pharma

Targacept restructuring cuts drug discovery, refocuses on clinical work

  Targacept’s (NASDAQ:TRGT) drug development effort is focused on the here, now and soon to be future. It has to be because a corporate restructuring that will lead to layoffs of 65 workers — nearly half of Targacept employees — has had particular impact on the company’s preclinical research. That means Targacept will need to […]

 

Targacept’s (NASDAQ:TRGT) drug development effort is focused on the here, now and soon to be future.

It has to be because a corporate restructuring that will lead to layoffs of 65 workers — nearly half of Targacept employees — has had particular impact on the company’s preclinical research. That means Targacept will need to see results from the drug candidates already in clinical development. The company doesn’t have the workers who can discover new compounds. CEO Don deBethizy said that in making the cuts, the company tried to preserve the scientific knowledge that the company has accumulated over the years as well as the workers who could focus on developmental-stage drugs.

“The staff we’ve retained has the ability to do that,” he told analysts during a conference call to discuss first-quarter financial results.

Some preclinical candidates that can continue in R&D have outside funding from grants or foundations. For example, a late preclinical candidate for treating Parkinson’s disease has financial support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. But deBethizy said Targacept doesn’

t plan to advance new preclinical drug candidates in the near term “until we restore the shareholder value.”

Targacept, a spin off from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, develops compounds that have an effect on the body’s neuronal nicotinic receptors, or NNRs. The company does not currently have any approved drugs. But the company draws revenue from drug partnerships. The company is currently partnered with AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), which is conducting and financing phase 2 studies on an experimental Alzheimer’s disease treatment.

Targacept’s prospects took a turn early this year with the failure of TC-5214, a depression drug candidate that had been the company’s lead drug candidate until it failed in a series of phase 3 clinical trials. The company’s focus now turns to the remaining compounds in its drug pipeline, which are in mid-stage clinical trials as potential treatments for conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. The company is particularly focused on TC-5619, a compound being studied as a treatment for symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in patients who have schizophrenia. Targacept is also studying that compound in inattentive-predominant attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The company expects top-line results on the ADHD study in the second half of this year.

Targacept has updated its financial guidance and projected that the company will have $175 million in cash and investments at the end of 2012 — enough to take the company through 2015.