2nd round of layoffs in 2 months for Instil, as cell therapy manufacturing shifts to UK

After cutting 60% of its staff last December, Instil Bio is back with another round of layoffs. In this latest round, 15 employees in the cell therapy biotech’s U.S. manufacturing operations in California will be heading out the door.

Manufacturing and clinical trial operations for the company’s CoStAR-TIL platform will shift to Manchester, U.K., where the team has been working on developing tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte, or TIL, therapies and cell therapies since 2011.

The 15 impacted employees work at a site in Tarzana, California, according to a Wednesday release. The Texas-based company intends to generate some revenue by selling or subleasing the Tarzana facility and others the company currently leases.

“The consolidation we announce today, while difficult, is consistent with our responsibilities as an early clinical phase company. We look forward to presenting initial clinical data in 2023 and continuing to progress the CoStAR-TIL platform,” CEO Bronson Crouch said in the press release.

The move will free up cash to extend Instil’s runway beyond 2026. The company reported $303.3 million in cash and equivalents at the end of September 2022, which paved a runway into 2025, according to a November 2022 earnings release. If the Tarzana site is subleased or another deal secured, that would further extend the runway, Instil said.

This latest round of layoffs is an extension of a workforce reduction Instil undertook just under two months ago. At the time, the company ended development of its lead TIL therapy and four corresponding programs. The cuts saw 60% of staff lose their jobs.

With the financials mostly sorted out for now, Instil is looking ahead to collecting initial clinical data for the ITIL-306 solid tumor program. A phase 1 trial in non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer and renal cell carcinoma resumed earlier this month after a voluntary pause was implemented due to some manufacturing issues. The company said in a Jan. 9 release that the trial was getting rolling again after the implementation of additional quality safeguards in the manufacturing process to guard against potential contaminants.

The company expects initial data from the program at a medical conference sometime this year.

Instil is just the latest company to lay off staff this month, as a brutal downturn in biotech forces tough decisions in C-suites across the industry. More companies are moving to impose a second round of layoffs as the year opens.