Scynexis plans to cut 40% of staff and license its approved antifungal in pivot to R&D

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A little more than a year after analysts were prophesizing blockbuster sales for Scynexis’ first approved drug, the Jersey City-based company is paring back jobs and rolling out a commercial contingency plan.

Thursday, the anti-infective-focused biotech laid out a strategy to “refocus its resources” on the clinical development of its antifungal ibrexafungerp in “hospital-based indications in which higher long-term returns are expected.”

At the same time, Scynexis aims to license out the drug in its approved indication in vaginal yeast infections, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. The drug scored a green light and was christened Brexafemme in June 2021. At the end of next month, Scynexis’ antifungal tablet is up for a potential approval in recurrent vaginal yeast infections, too.

Meanwhile, as Scynexis “actively” pursues a U.S. partner to snap up the marketing rights to Brexafemme, the company plans to end its current marketing partnership with contract commercialization organization Amplity Health.

Scynexis will “wind down” its Brexafemme promotion, too, though it says it will keep the drug on the market and available to patients.

Scynexis hasn’t said much about what it’s looking for in its licensing partner, but the company could have a big opportunity right next door in Merck & Co.’s women’s health spinout Organon, which also operates out of Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City.

Citing “positive sales momentum” to date, Scynexis still has faith in Brexafemme’s commercial value. Last year, the company said it was eyeing peak U.S. sales of $400 million to $600 million for the drug, with execs even teasing potential “upside scenarios” to that estimate. Separately, Cantor Fitzgerald analysts last June predicted the med could reach blockbuster territory with more than $1 billion in annual sales.

Despite the pivot, the company still believes it can win approval for ibrexafungerp in the potentially higher-return hospital setting in 2024.

Alongside its marketing and R&D shakeup, Scynexis is initiating a changing of the executive guard.

The company’s current president and CEO, Marco Taglietti, M.D., will retire Dec. 31. Chief Commercial Officer Christine Coyne is also leaving the company to “pursue other opportunities.” Because of the company’s shift in priorities, Scynexis is eliminating the role of CCO altogether, the company explained in a release.

Scynexis’ longtime chief medical officer David Angulo, M.D., will assume the captain’s chair on Jan. 1, 2023, while Ivor Macleod will don the mantle of chief financial officer on Oct. 24. A 30-year industry vet, Macleod most recently held the same position at Athersys.

Aside from the C-suite shuffle, Scynexis has also warned a general “workforce reduction” is coming.

When reached for comment, a Scynexis spokesperson said via email she couldn’t provide exact job cut numbers, though she specified “all members” of the commercial team and “certain other roles” that support the business are set to be eliminated.

“This is approximately 40% of the total workforce,” she added.

Brexafemme bore high expectations when it won approval last June, representing the first member in a new class of antifungal drugs in more than 20 years. Its main competition at the time was Pfizer’s Diflucan, also known as fluconazole, which previously reigned as the only oral antifungal approved to treat vaginal yeast infection in the U.S.

At the time of approval, outgoing CEO Taglietti hailed the green light as a “breakthrough not only for women’s health but for the overall antifungal space.” In an email to Fierce Pharma last year, he called the nod a “major step” on Scynexis’ quest to establish a “blockbuster antifungal franchise.”