Black Diamond runs into rocky terrain, trims 30% of workforce and cuts precision oncology program

Black Diamond Therapeutics is closing down at least one run at a precision oncology med after getting a glimpse of the rocky terrain ahead and cutting 30% of staff in the process.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech will refocus on two therapies in its pipeline while leaving BDTX-189 at the lodge. The therapy was under development for cancers driven by genetic mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) kinases. In January, the company de-prioritized the med but still promised to obtain more safety data at the recommended phase 2 dose before starting a mid-stage trial. Enrollment had been continuing in the safety expansion cohort of the phase 1 study.

Now, the program is canceled all together. Black Diamond blamed the change in plans on “the rapid evolution of the treatment landscape” in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Along with the BDTX-189 program, Black Diamond will also lay off 30% of its workforce to extend its cash runway into the third quarter of 2024. This will allow the biotech to support “important clinical and preclinical milestones.”

The company will now refocus on BDTX-1535 and BDTX-4933. The first is being tested in patients with the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme and EGFR mutations, as well as NSCLC patients who have shown resistance to EGFR inhibitors. A phase 1 trial got underway in the first quarter and a clinical update is planned for 2023. A previous preclinical study found that BDTX-1535 slowed tumor growth in mice with glioblastoma.

BDTX-4933, on the other hand, is a BRAF inhibitor for patients with or without brain tumors that are driven by BRAF mutations. In the first quarter, Black Diamond began doing studies that are required before it can move into testing the drug in people, and the company expects to submit a request to the FDA for human testing in the first half of 2023.

Black Diamond, which was named a Fierce 15 winner in 2019, is developing so-called MasterKey therapies focused on genetically defined cancers in patients with few treatment options.

Even with the re-prioritization. Black Diamond intends to continue drug discovery efforts from its Mutation-Allostery-Pharmacology (MAP) drug discovery engine. Another candidate for EGFR-mutated cancers is expected in 2022, followed by one more in 2023.

The company is the latest to announce layoffs amid a flurry of staffing cuts affecting the biotech industry.

To read more about layoffs across the biotech industry, check out Fierce Biotech's Layoff Tracker.