Zymeworks to lay off 50% of senior staff

Jan. 21, 2022

Vancouver-based cancer biopharma Zymeworks will be laying off at least 25% of its employees. The layoffs, which will include 50% of the former senior management team, were announced by the company’s new CEO, Kenneth Galbraith. 

Galbraith, who replaced former CEO Ali Tehrani on January 15, slipped the massive changes into an announcement about the company’s strategic priorities for the upcoming year, many of which focus on improving Zymework’s financial position. The company will establish a “renewed and smaller leadership team” that can execute company priorities efficiently, said Galbraith. 

Zymeworks is best known for the development of clinical therapies for breast cancers, biliary tract cancer, and a rare type of esophageal cancer called gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. The company’s lead product candidate is Zanidatamab, used to treat breast and biliary tract cancers. It was granted breakthrough therapy designation by the U.S. FDA in November 2020, and orphan drug designation in the U.S. and E.U. 

Ten members of the senior staff will be let go, including the chief people officer, the chief commercial officer, and the chief scientific officer as part of Galbraith’s plan to save money. He also promised a company-wide downsizing of at least 25% by the end of 2022. The company will retain its COO, Neil Klompas, and its CMO, Dr. Neil Josephson, but has announced it is searching for a new head of R&D. 

The changes are expected to reduce company spending and allow Zymeworks to focus on funding their phase III trial of an anti-cancer drug and early clinical testing of another. At the end of 2021, Zymeworks reported $250 million in investments, including in cash and cash equivalents.