The end of eFFECTOR Therapeutics: Oncology biotech winds down after midstage fail

It’s the end of an era—eFFECTOR Therapeutics’ era to be exact.

The oncology biotech has laid off staff as it plans to wind down, according to a June 24 company release. This includes eFFECTOR CEO Stephen Worland, Ph.D.; Chief Financial Officer Michael Byrnes; and Chief Medical Officer Douglas Warner, M.D., who all stopped serving in their positions at the end of last week.

The company expects to spend about $600,000 by June 30 in one-time charges and cash expenditures tied to the workforce reduction, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

In the meantime, the board of directors has tapped Craig Jalbert to lead as eFFECTOR’s CEO, president, treasurer, secretary and sole board member. Jalbert is a principal from the accounting firm Verdolino & Lowey, P.C., and has more than three decades of experience helping companies wind down. 

Part of the next steps include looking for strategic alternatives for eFFECTOR’s development programs. The biotech’s lead asset is zotatifin, a selective eIF4A inhibitor being tested out in several mid-stage trials for solid tumors.

In April, the company's other wholly-owned asset, tomivosertib, failed to improve progression-free survival in a phase 2b trial of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Based on all the data available in the primary analysis, the company said it didn't see an obvious path forward for continuing development of the asset in frontline NSCLC.

eFFECTOR also had a partnership with Big Pharma Pfizer for a preclinical asset dubbed eIF4Ei, which is also designed to tackle solid tumors. The $507 million biobucks deal was struck back in 2019 when Pfizer paid out $15 million up front in an exclusive licensing agreement to develop small-molecule inhibitors of eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) with eFFECTOR.

The biotech was founded in 2012 based on research from the University of California, San Francisco labs of Davide Ruggero, Ph.D., and Kevan Shokat, Ph.D.

eFFECTOR plans to ask to be delisted from the Nasdaq. Since announcing the planned shuttering, the biotech’s stock plummeted 77% from $1.17 per share at market close Friday to 29 cents this morning at opening.