BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Once billed as a “game-changer” for Western New York by former governor Andrew Cuomo, Athenex has filed for bankruptcy and signaled state labor authorities that 123 employees will be laid off in three phases ending in August.
The global biopharmaceutical company had offices in the Conventus Building on Main Street in downtown Buffalo and in Clarence. The doors will close on Aug. 10, ending a 20-year run that began in a University at Buffalo chemistry laboratory with co-founder David Hangauer.
“Our office is committed to supporting impacted workers and families and encourages workers to contact the New York State Department of Labor for information on employment resources,” a spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday afternoon.
Cuomo, through his Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, infused $200 million in subsidies to build Athenex a new manufacturing facility in Dunkirk. Another $25 million went to design space in the Conventus Building for its headquarters.
Cuomo said Athenex would create 1,400 jobs in Western New York.
“Western New York’s economic transformation has captured the attention of companies and investors around the globe,” Cuomo said on Feb. 11, 2016, when he announced the project.
But the company never met that job promise.
Athenex faced numerous setbacks over the years that proved too much to overcome.
In March 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended Athenex run more clinical trials for its drug to treat metastatic breast cancer. The news sent the company’s stock into a nosedive and forced them into restructuring the business.
In February 2022, Athenex sold its leasehold interest in the Dunkirk facility for $40 million to ImmunityBio, Inc. and used a portion of the sale to pay off debt.
In August 2022, a jury awarded a former employee $635,000 after it found the company withheld the employee’s bonus and terminated him without cause.
The FDA in March 2023 imposed a clinical hold on Athenex’s study of a treatment for neuroblastoma, after a young patient died during a phase one trial.
Athenex was never able to turn the corner from the second FDA setback.
The bankruptcy filing on May 14 estimates Athenex has between 200 and 999 creditors. The company reported debts exceeding $228 million and assets worth $204 million.
Athenex lists Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, a not-for-profit arm of the state’s economic development efforts, as its landlord with a debt of $217,803.
Dan Telvock is an award-winning investigative producer and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.