Ardea Biosciences, a local biotech sold to Big Pharma for big bucks, will lay off up to 145 employees in San Diego and eventually close down.
The company was purchased by pharma giant AstraZeneca for $1.26 billion in 2012, partly due to the promise of its lead drug candidate at the time, Zurampic.
As a subsidiary of AstraZeneca, the firm stuck around in San Diego and eventually received FDA approval of Zurampic. The drug helps manage high uric acid in the blood for gout patients.
AstraZeneca spokesperson Michele Meixell said the global firm is sharpening its focus in three main therapy areas, and gout doesn’t fit in the picture.
“As a result…we will cease operations at Ardea by early 2018,” Meixell said in an email. “We will be working closely with each employee to ensure they have the appropriate resource and support through this transition.”
Zurampic was approved in December 2015, and AstraZeneca promptly sold rights to the drug to Cambridge-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in April of this year. As part of the deal, Ironwood was to pay AstraZeneca up to $265 million in sales and milestone-related payments, along with tiered, single-digit royalties on product sales. AstraZeneca also sold rights to Zurampic in Europe and Latin America to German drugmaker Grünenthal for $230 million, plus tiered double-digit royalties on product sales.
Layoffs at Ardea will start in July, Meixell said. A handful of employees will stick around until early 2018 to continue clinical work on a combination therapy of lesinurad (Zurampic) and allopurinol. After that, Ardea will shut down permanently.
“Ardea is proud of its many tremendous successes and we’ve appreciated great support from the San Diego biotech community,” said James Mackay, COO of Ardea Biosciences, in an email. “However, due to these business developments, Ardea will be implementing a phased-reduction in workforce this summer and ceasing operations by early 2018."