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Poniard To Cut Jobs, Change CEO

Pharmaceutical company said Wednesday it will cut 57 percent of its workforce and replace CEO Jerry McMahon.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) -- Poniard Pharmaceuticals said Wednesday it will lay off more than half its work force and replace CEO Jerry McMahon.

The company said it will cut staff by 57 percent, leaving 21 workers in an effort to cut costs and focus on its potential cancer drug picoplatin. The layoffs will result in a $1 million charge during the first quarter, but should cut annual costs by about $4 million, the company said.

Meanwhile, it named Ronald A. Martell CEO in the place of McMahon, who will remain non-executive chairman. Martell has been president and chief operating officer of Poniard since May of 2007.

The company also named Michael S. Perry president and chief medical officer.

The management changes are effective Friday.

Poniard raised some safety concerns over picoplatin in January, after it reported midstage study results showing patients were more likely to develop two rare blood disorders, thrombocytopenia and neutropenia, than patients taking a standard chemotherapy regimen of treatment. The results did show that patients who received picoplatin had significantly less nerve damage than patients who were given standard drugs.

In November, it reported a mix of study data on the drug candidate. Picoplatin failed to improve survival for patients with lung cancer, but Poniard reported positive results from a study involving patients with colon cancer.

Shares of Poniard fell 13 cents, or 7.1 percent, to $1.69 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded between $1.50 and $9.14 over the last 52 weeks.

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