Aduro cuts 37% of employees as it refocuses on cancer pipeline

Axe and chopping block
Aduro Biotech did not specify how much cash the reorganization will save, but that it will extend the company's runway into 2022. (Pixabay/sierramurray)

Aduro Biotech has hit the reset button, laying off about 37% of its workforce to throw all of its resources behind a handful of lead programs: assets that target the STING and APRIL pathways for the treatment of cancer.

“Over the years, Aduro has demonstrated a proven track record in the discovery of small molecules and biologics. As our portfolio has evolved and with a strong cash position, the Executive Team and Board concluded this is the right time to proactively reduce operating expenses and invest more purposefully in STING and APRIL development,” said Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs in a statement. “We are committed to maintaining a leadership role in the STING and APRIL pathways, and generating multiple clinical data readouts over the next several years."

The company has “deprioritized” several programs, including pLADD, ADU-1604 (anti-CTLA-4) and ADU-1805 (anti-SIRPα), Isaacs said. However, the “strategic reset,” as Aduro calls it, will allow the company to seek new partnership opportunities for these not-so-lucky programs. 

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Aduro did not specify how much cash the reorganization will save. It will extend Aduro’s runway into 2022, the company said in a statement. This doesn’t include potential milestone payments from its partnerships with Novartis, Eli Lilly and Merck, Aduro said. 

RELATED: SITC18: Aduro finds some activity with STING agonist

The Berkeley, California-based biotech first teamed up with Novartis on targeting STING (stimulator of interferon genes) back in 2015. The Big Pharma paid $200 million upfront and took a 2.7% stake in Aduro for $25 million. It also committed to as much as $500 million in milestones and promised to invest another $25 million later on. Now, Aduro’s lead asset, ADU-S100, is in the clinic for multiple tumors, both as a single agent and in combination with anti-PD-1 treatment. 

RELATED: Novartis tackles immuno-oncology with a $750M Aduro deal for new R&D group 

Aduro inked a deal with Merck to test its anti-CD27 agonist with the Big Pharma’s Keytruda in 2017 and picked up a $3 million milestone the next year when they expanded the collaboration. As for Eli Lilly, the duo announced a research and license agreement in December focused on immunotherapies for autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases. Lilly paid $12 million upfront to partner on a cGAS-STING pathway inhibitor program, though it promised up to $620 million in milestones.

It hasn't all come up roses for Aduro, partnership-wise. In October, Janssen told Aduro that it would end a research collaboration struck in 2014. Aduro had granted Janssen an exclusive, worldwide license to "research, develop, manufacture, use, sell and otherwise exploit products containing ADU-214, ADU-741 and GVAX Prostate."

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