Gelesis cuts marketing team after disappointing start

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When Gelesis completed its merger on January 14, more than 98% of investors in the deal exercised their right to bail out and get their money back. The company still struck a related deal with other private investors who had agreed to back the deal in July and invest more than $100 million.

Instead of raising the planned $376 million, Gelesis ended up with $105 million.

Last summer, when the deal seemed stronger, Gelesis hired a drug commercialization company called Syneos to assemble a national team of entrepreneurs to introduce doctors to Plenity, a $98-a-month treatment to help people in overweight to suppress food cravings,

But days after the SPAC deal was struck in January, around 140 team members received an email from Syneos inviting them to an afternoon conference call, according to a person on the call.

During the call, the team was told that Gelesis had not raised as much working capital as planned in the SPAC deal and, despite strong sales, their jobs were to be terminated on February 1, according to a recording. of the call provided to the Globe. The benefits would run until the end of February. No questions were asked.

Gelesis declined to comment on details of the layoffs. Syneos did not respond to a request for comment.

The news came as a shock to the team as the previous week they had been told that due to strong Plenity sales, expense budgets and incentive compensation had been increased.

“Just a random Tuesday to fire the sales team which is doing well,” said the person on the call.

Gelesis said it’s emphasizing virtual marketing calls instead of the old-fashioned strategy of sending reps to doctors’ offices.

“We have increased our focus on virtual interactions with healthcare providers and decreased live interactions, not only due to COVID, but based on the effectiveness of virtual care,” said David Pass, chief commercial officer. and operations, in a statement to The Globe. “We have proactively structured our relationship with Syneos to enable optimization based on what is working well, allowing us, as a growing company, to dynamically allocate resources based on market response. .”

Shares of Gelesis have fallen since the SPAC deal was struck. The stock closed at $5.10 on Monday, down 22% from $6.53, the closing price on the day the deal was completed.

The Food and Drug Administration classifies Plenity as a medical device, and in 2019 cleared it for use in adults with a body mass index of 25 to 40. After being swallowed, the company’s capsules create tiny pockets water in the stomach, which makes patients feel full so they eat less food.

Gelesis is a subsidiary of PureTech Health in Boston, which also founded Karuna Therapeutics in Boston and Vor Biopharma in Cambridge, both publicly traded companies. Another PureTech affiliate, prescription video game maker Akili Interactive, last week announced plans to go public through a SPAC merger.


Aaron Pressman can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.

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