Candel’s flame dims as cash crunch spurs layoffs to half of the company

Candel Therapeutics is taking difficult measures to keep its clinical flame burning, laying off 50% of its team as part of a wide scale restructuring meant to save cash for a couple of core programs. 

The company says that the layoffs announced Tuesday, along with the larger pipeline prioritization plans, will add six months to its cash runway, from the second quarter of 2024 to the fourth quarter. The priority will be affording topline readouts of lead asset CAN-2409 in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer. Data on all three patient groups are expected over the course of 2024. 

Candel will also prioritize CAN-3110, a cancer-tackling immunotherapy that uses an engineered herpes simplex virus to attack cancer cells. The treatment is in the middle of a phase 1 trial for patients with recurrent high-grade glioma with “initial activity and biomarker data” set for the second half of 2024. 

“This decision, unfortunately, impacts our workforce,” CEO Paul-Peter Tak, M.D., said in a release. “In the current market, we need to remain laser focused on delivering on our value-creating inflection points, while managing our expenditures.” 

The other cog in Candel’s restructuring wheel will be partnerships, with CAN-2409 being the top priority. The biotech will “explore the right partnering opportunities” for future development of the asset, noting that building up a commercialization team would be too costly on its own. Candel also hopes to attract fresh interest to its enLIGHTEN discovery platform, for which data on a second candidate is expected next year, as well. 

The significant downsizing comes almost three years to the day since Tak took over the company, coming over from Flagship Pioneering. He previously lead immunology work at GSK. Candel jumped onto Wall Street just as the markets began to sour in 2021, raising $72 million, more than 25% off from the $100 million it originally hoped to raise. The company reported having $43 million at the end of the third quarter.