Altamira lays off a quarter of staff amid ongoing pivot to RNA

Altamira Therapeutics' corporate redesign has been more than a year in the making as the biotech looks to offload legacy assets while fully pivoting toward RNA delivery. The moves have come at the cost of a quarter of its existing workforce, with the headcount changes just now coming into view.

The company said Monday that it's laying off 25% of employees as part of efforts to significantly reduce its cash spend. Altamira also shrunk its office footprint and has spent less on the legacy assets that have been up for grabs. 

The update comes a little less than a month after the company agreed to sell off the majority of its allergy nasal spray business to a Swiss private equity investor for $2.3 million in cash considerations. Altamira retained 49% of the business and gets 25% of any future licensing income should the subsidiary get sold on again.

The asset at the center of the deal, Bentrio, is a drug-free nasal spray that prevents airborne allergies and is primarily marketed through distributors, according to Altamira. Medica, the spunout subsidiary in charge of the spray, expects revenue to grow as it’s launched in more markets, namely mainland China and South Korea via partner Nuance Pharma. Medica stands to earn $22.5 million in biobucks should Bentrio hit regulatory and commercial milestones in those regions. 

Altamira has yet to find a partner for its inner ear therapies after talks fell through with a potential buyer in January. Conversations have continued and the nasal spray maker says that discussions are most progressed with AM-125, a spray meant to treat acute vestibular syndrome. Altamira teased in Monday's release that it “expects significant partnering progress during the first half of 2024.” 

The current and potential asset shipments all center around the biotech’s ambitions to grow its RNA delivery technology and reach tissues outside the liver. The platform centers on the delivery of nanoparticles that disassemble and release the RNA payload, which Altamira contends is much more effective than lipid nanoparticles.

The company has two internal assets based on the tech, AM-401 and AM-411, for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively, but ultimately plans to license them out. The core of the business will be out-licensing the technology to other biopharmas to use with their internal programs.