Agios Pharmaceuticals lays off 50 as it focuses on later-stage drugs

Two years after selling off oncology business to Servier, biotech restructures to shift focus to late-stage research.

The Cambridge-based biotech which develops drugs for rare diseases, is laying off about half of its research and development team, as it to save up to $50 million a year. To achieve its objectives, the company said it is looking to lay off up to 50 employees working on its early-stage research. This would represent more than 10 percent of its approximately 400-person workforce. Along with changes to its staffing levels, the company will also see Sarah Gheuens, M.D., Ph.D., the company’s current chief medical officer, assume the role of head of research and development and chief medical officer at the end of July. The company’s chief scientific officer, Bruce Car, Ph.D., will step down from the role and remain with the company through July to facilitate the transition.

Agios started off by focusing on cancer, which culminated in the company successfully bringing two oncology drugs to market before agreeing to sell its oncology business to Servier Pharmaceuticals for $2 billion towards the end of 2020. The company has since focused on developing drugs for rare diseases. Earlier this year, Agios scored another big win when it earned approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin selling its drug mitapivat to people with a rare blood disorder called pyruvate kinase deficiency. While the disease only affects about 3,000 people in the United States, the drug’s list price is nearly $335,000 annually. Like many biotechs, Agios has also fallen victim to falling biotech stocks which has led to a 60 percent decline since last June.