Corbus Pharmaceuticals is laying off 54% of its workforce to eke its cash reserves out to mid-2022. The ax wielding follows the failure of lead drug lenabasum in two advanced clinical trials in the space of a month.
Massachusetts-based Corbus is set to terminate 89 employees, leaving it with a staff of 76. Robert Discordia, Corbus’ chief operating officer, is one of the 89 axed employees.
The cuts come after a period in which Corbus grew its headcount, adding 24 employees since the start of the year, as it escalated its marketing in the run-up to late-phase data on its synthetic, oral cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) agonist lenabasum.
Last month, lenabasum failed a phase 3 test in cutaneous systemic sclerosis patients. Earlier this week, lenabasum flunked a second study, failing to do better than placebo at reducing pulmonary exacerbations in a phase 2b cystic fibrosis trial.
The back-to-back flops have driven Corbus to take action. With $83 million in cash and equivalents as of the end of last month, Corbus is laying off staff and focusing its resources on the tasks it needs to take lenabasum through to data drops in two other indications.
Working with Corbus, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is sponsoring a phase 2 trial that is assessing lenabasum in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. The ClinicalTrials.gov listing for that trial puts the completion date as December 2020.
A separate, Corbus-sponsored phase 3 trial is comparing the effects of two doses of lenabasum to placebo in 176 patients with the autoimmune disease dermatomyositis. That trial has an estimated primary completion date of September 2021. The full study is scheduled to wrap up 12 months later. Corbus expects to share data from the trial in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The cuts will cost Corbus around $3.3 million in the coming months but push its cash runway out past the phase 3 data drop, giving it another shot at showing lenabasum is efficacious. Corbus is also still assessing the failed phase 3 systemic sclerosis data to see whether there are opportunities for further study as well as performing preclinical work on CB1 inverse agonists and follow-on CB2 agonists.