2seventy eliminates 40% of roles, seeks replacement for CEO Nick Leschly as cell therapy falters

CEO Nick Leschly is leading a long list of 2seventy bio employees who are heading to the exit. With rival drugs putting its approved cell therapy under pressure, the bluebird bio spinout is eliminating 176 roles and advancing fewer R&D programs internally to stretch its cash runway out to 2026. 

Bluebird bet that splitting the oncology and rare disease sides of its business would create more focused and effective teams. However, almost two years after completing the separation, the oncology-focused 2seventy has encountered problems that have triggered a major rethink. The fallout is a 40% reduction in 2seventy’s head count and a new approach to R&D. 

Leschly, who is stepping down as CEO and transitioning to the chairman role, framed the changes as a response to “the macro environment for oncology cell therapy companies” and headwinds faced by 2seventy. U.S. sales of Abecma, 2seventy’s Bristol Myers Squibb-partnered BCMA cell therapy, reached $115 million in the second quarter, keeping the biotech on track to hit the bottom end of its range, but Leschly warned “competitive intensity has increased.” Now, 2seventy thinks it might fall short of its target range.

Eliminating 40% of the workforce will save 2seventy around $65 million a year and allow it to keep going into 2026 on its current cash, despite the potential shortfall in sales of Abecma. Work on the CAR-T cell therapies bbT369, a dual targeted CD79a/CD20 prospect, and the CD33-targeted SC-DARIC33 is ongoing, but question marks hang over the long-term fates of the candidates. 

A phase 1 trial of bbT369 is going slower than expected, and 2seventy has “markedly streamlined the cost structure” for the asset, gating further investment past phase 1 on “the achievement of transformational efficacy.” 2seventy is still working with the FDA to restart a phase 1 trial of SC-DARIC33 after being hit with a clinical hold but plans to limit its investment in the asset to the current study. 

Overall, 2seventy plans to lean more on “select academic centers” and JW Therapeutics to advance drug candidates. The bluebird spinout partnered with Chinese CAR-T player JW 11 months ago to study solid tumor candidates and expanded the pact Tuesday to cover an additional solid tumor program and the first-in-human assessment of an autoimmune-directed CAR-T candidate.