Akebia to cut 42% of staff

April 8, 2022

Another wave of layoffs is rolling through the biotech market, this time hitting Akebia Therapeutics.

Akebia, once a titan of the pharmaceutical world, will let go of 42% of its staff, about 159 people, by the end of June following a complete response letter from the U.S. FDA that stopped Akebia’s lead pipeline product in its tracks.

An SEC filing said the job cuts would affect employees across all sectors of the company, as it “refocuses” around Auryxia, currently Akebia’s only marketed drug. 

The Massachusetts-based biotech received a complete response letter from the agency for vadadustat, a treatment for anemia due to chronic kidney disease, on March 29. The FDA denied the application, citing safety concerns.

The blows kept coming when on April 1, the FDA placed a partial clinical hold on Akebia’s clinical trials of vadadustat in children, halting all studies of the drug in children for the time being.

Meanwhile, the biotech will stake its future on Auryxia, which generated sales of $142 million in 2021. The mass layoff is expected to save between $60 and $65 million through the end of 2023, according to Akebia. Employees who lost their jobs will be offered severance packages expected to cost the company $12 million.

Akebia isn’t the only biotech reducing its staff. Recently bluebird bio and Biogen have made cuts in their staff following budget concerns. On April 6, bluebird announced it would shed about 30% of its workforce in an attempt to reduce operating costs as the company waits to hear back from the FDA about its gene therapy applications.

Biogen, wrapped up in its Aduhelm scandal, started restructuring early in 2022. By early March, more than 100 people had been laid off with no official comment from Biogen as to how many job losses there will be in total.

Other companies like Ovid, Pacira, Adaptive and Zosano are also downsizing.