Beam lays off about 100 employees, deprioritizes CAR-T programs to push runway into 2026

Beam Therapeutics is laying off 100 employees and rejigging its pipeline priorities to save cash, citing a “challenging market environment.”  

The new project hierarchy, disclosed Thursday, will focus on the two lead programs, BEAM-101 and ESCAPE, both aimed at treating patients with sickle cell disease, with the latter also being developed to treat beta thalassemia. Alongside these, Beam will prioritize BEAM-302, which is currently in IND-enabling studies for the treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. 

The biotech's cost savings are coming primarily from layoffs and sunsetting work on its base-edited CAR-Ts. The company said it will look to accrue a “focused clinical dataset” on phase 1-stage BEAM-201 and seek partnerships for that asset and other ex vivo CAR-T programs. An update to the clinical trial record last month included two additional trial sites, in California and Colorado, respectively. An AAV program for Stargardt disease has also been removed from Beam's public pipeline. 

Roughly 100 employees are being laid off, the company said, equating to 20% of the entire workforce. The exits are expected to be completed before the end of the year and will cost the company about $6.6 million in severance-related charges. 

All told, the moves extend the company’s cash runway into 2026. Beam had about $1.1 billion in cash and investment securities as of June 30, with a third-quarter earnings date yet to be announced. Such is life in biotech these days, where having more than $1 billion at your disposal still doesn’t insulate you from the perils of a frigid market.

Stymying Beam’s momentum has been BEAM-101’s phase 1/2 trial, which has yet to dose a single patient. CEO John Evans told Fierce Biotech in August that it was still “plausible” that the company would see the first dose administered before the end of the year. A previously enrolled patient dropped out earlier this year for personal reasons, which Evans said knocked the company back. 

It takes about six months for Beam to prepare a patient for dosing, and there’s a 40-day buffer period between dosing subsequent patients to make sure engraftment occurs. Evans affirmed in August that the biotech expects data on multiple patients next year. The first patient has now been dosed in a phase 1/2 trial for BEAM-201, a study that began almost a year after the BEAM-101 trial launched, according to an announcement last month.