Atreca, facing Q1 funding cliff edge, cuts head count by 40% for 2nd time in 3 months

Atreca is handing out pink slips at a furious rate in a fight to survive, reducing its head count by 40% for the second time in three months in a bid to keep the lights on until strategic alternatives can be identified.

California-based Atreca has upped the pace of cuts as the end of its cash runway has approached. After laying off 25% of staff in the summer of 2022, Atreca parted ways with 40% of its remaining team and stopped development of its lead candidate in August. The second round of cuts bought time to advance a preclinical antibody-drug conjugate pipeline led by APN-497444.

In a statement, CEO John Orwin said Atreca remains focused on taking APN-497444 through preclinical testing. But, with cash down to $21.4 million and hopes of finding financing fading, Atreca has decided to cut costs again.

“Given current financial market conditions and the funding needs required to advance ‘444 and our other antibody-drug conjugate programs into clinical development, we have made the difficult decision to further reduce our headcount as we explore strategic alternatives,” Orwin said. Atreca is retaining the staff needed to “continue exploring potential strategic transactions and business alternatives.”

The statement lacks details of how many employees are affected. Atreca ended last year with 90 people on its books. If the team was around that size in August, the first 40% reduction would have brought the biotech’s head count down to 54. A further 40% drop from that head count would see Atreca eliminate around 20 positions. 

Atreca updated the “going concern” section of its quarterly financial regulatory filing in conjunction with the layoffs. In August, the biotech told investors it intended to complete equity financings in 2023 and 2024, albeit while warning that the success of that plan was “less than probable.” Atreca removed the reference to equity financings from the latest filing—and added a warning about the cash runway.

“The company believes that its existing cash, cash equivalents and investments will only be sufficient to fund its planned operating and capital needs into the first quarter of 2024,” Atreca wrote in the filing. As such, the biotech has a narrow window, which includes the disruption of Thanksgiving and Christmas, to find a savior.