Cuts to the Bone: Orthopedic biotech slashes C-suite, overhauls entire pipeline

Bone Therapeutics is cutting its executive team to guessed an attempt to weather a cost-cutting storm and refocus the company on a lead “off-the-shelf” cell therapy platform. 

The Belgian biotech is bidding farewell to the bulk of its executive team “in the coming months” including the CEO, CSO, CBO and CFO, according to an announcement Tuesday.

It's a big shake-up for the orthopedic-focused biotech, although CEO Miguel Forte is staying on during the transition. The departures are “in alignment” with efforts to completely revamp the company's pipeline, according to the release. 

All of Bone's early programs will be scrapped to focus entirely on the company’s lead allogeneic cell therapy using bone-forming cells. That lead candidate, known as ALLOB, is currently in a phase 2b trial in patients with high-risk tibial fractures and is being evaluated in patients with lumbar spinal fusion. 

As for who will now lead the company, Bone is turning to CMO Anne Leselbaum and COO Anne-Sophie Lebrun, Ph.D., to chart the path forward during the transition. The company also said non-executive members of the board of directors will be suspending their pay until further notice. 

The decision to rebuild comes after the company disclosed in January that cash would run out after Q3 2022 assuming normal operations—which they warned could be hampered by the pandemic. COVID-19 has already bulldozed through the company’s plans to complete enrollment of the phase 2b ALLOB trial. Also contributing to the financial woes are a delay in finalizing a global licensing agreement with a Chinese partner. Bone said those negotiations “are still ongoing but are taking longer than anticipated.” 

By consolidating the pipeline around ALLOB, the company is letting its once-leading asset to treat osteoarthritic knee pain fall by the wayside. The discontinuation was expected after the company announced in August 2021 that the candidate, an intra-articular injectable called JTA-004, failed to improve knee pain in a phase 3 trial. The company is also scrapping earlier programs, one of which was designated for inflammation. 

What’s unknown is whether or not the corporate changes will affect lower-level staff, although the company’s language does not bode well, saying the board was “examining various opportunities to combine certain activities within Bone Therapeutics.” 

Bone did not respond to a request for comment as of publication when asked whether wider layoffs to the rest of the company were included in this announcement.

The executive reshuffle comes amid a wider trend of layoffs among smaller biotechs that are struggling to survive. Fierce Biotech has tallied at least 32 biopharmas that have disclosed layoffs since September 2021, four of which, including Bone, announced plans in the last two weeks.