Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Tuesday it will cut 100 jobs and give retention bonuses to remaining employees — including a total of almost $1 million to four top executives — in a bid to continue developing its experimental treatment for blood cancers.
The Cambridge company made the moves after drug maker AbbVie Inc. terminated a partnership that was helping fund development of Infinity's drug candidate, called duvelisib.
Infinity last month laid off 46 researchers, or 21 percent of its workforce, after releasing disappointing findings in a mid-stage clinical study of duvelisib. The new cutback, affecting 58 percent of its remaining staff, will leave Infinity with 65 workers at its 780 Memorial Drive offices.
Infinity said it plans to press forward with duvelisib and would look for other ways to bankroll development.
"We are now exploring strategic options for the program that could enable the submission of global regulatory applications and commercialization for duvelisib," chief executive Adelene Perkins said in a statement.
In the mid-stage trial, duvelisib met its primary goal, called an endpoint, by showing an overall response in patients with a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients.
But its performance fell short of expectations, and it remained unclear if its benefits represented the kind of improvement over two approved blood cancer drugs, Zydelig and Rituxan, that would justify Infinity filing for Food and Drug Administration approval.
Infinity said efforts over the past two weeks to restructure its alliance with AbbVie, based in North Chicago, Ill., were unsuccessful.
Infinity, which is taking back full global rights to duvelisib, plans to continue four clinical trials of the experimental drug in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
The company disclosed its retention bonuses to senior executives in a regulatory filing Tuesday. It said Infinity was paying "retention incentive awards" of $334,750 to Perkins, $249,000 to research and development president Julian Adams, $209,090 to chief financial officer Lawrence Bloch, and $205,000 to chief commercial officer Sujay Kango.
Those were the only four executives listed in the filing. But a company spokeswoman, Jaren Madden, said retention awards would go to all employees remaining at Infinity after Labor Day. The company isn't disclosing the total amount being paid, she said.
Madden said 86 of the 100 new job cuts will occur before Labor Day, while 14 employees will depart between Labor Day and the end of the year. Those 14, along with the 65 remaining employees, will be eligible for retention bonuses, she said.
Retention bonuses are typically reserved for special situations. Among the Massachusetts companies that have awarded the bonuses in the past to keep valued executives are Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., Biogen Inc., Staples Inc., and Akamai Technologies Inc. But compensation specialists say they have fallen from favor in recent years and are often frowned on by investors.
"They're discretionary," said Dan Marcec, a director at national compensation consulting firm Equilar Inc. "They're used to retain and reward executives in a unique situation. In a case like [Infinity], it's not surprising that they'd want to say to the employees who are left, 'You are the valuable employees and we want to keep you.' At the end of the day, when there's so much competition for talent, that's how compensation is designed."
Marcec acknowledged the bonuses might not sit well with employees being laid off.
Infinity's Madden said some remaining employees would be eligible for a bonus of up to 50 percent on a pro-rated basis, depending on how long they're at the company. The bonuses will be paid on Dec. 30, 2016, and July 1, 2017. She said Infinity expects to pay severance, benefits, and related costs of about $8 million.