Federation Bio cuts undisclosed number of staff months after launching first trial

Microbiome-focused Federation Bio has cut an undisclosed number of staff months after launching its first phase 1 trial.

A spokesperson confirmed the layoffs Wednesday in a statement to Fierce Biotech but did not elaborate on how many employees were impacted or what share of the workforce was reduced.

"Federation Bio can confirm that, like many biotech companies over the past several months, the company has very recently undergone a reduction in workforce," the spokesperson told Fierce.

The biotech launched less than three years ago after raising $50 million in series A funds, led by Horizon Ventures and joined by Venrock and Altitude among others. The promise of tapping the microbiome as a reservoir for potential therapeutics was enticing enough for Emily Conley, who left an executive position at genomics company 23andMe to helm the ship. The biotech has not reported raising any additional funds since. 

Federation's lead compound, FB-001, launched into a phase 1 trial at the end of last year to treat patients with enteric hyperoxaluria, an illness that causes excess absorption of oxalate. The first part of the trial is dosing healthy volunteers with either FB-001 or placebo and the second will move into an outpatient setting, recruiting up to 16 patients with the condition to receive either the treatment or placebo.

The company’s second asset, FB-003, is working through IND-enabling studies as a treatment for inflammatory bowel syndrome. 

Federation’s promise was enough to draw in MD Anderson to collaborate on potential microbiome treatments for patients with cancer so that they better respond to immunotherapy. The two organizations said in February that they are working on designing a “complex consortium of bacteria” sourced from a donor fecal sample that could potentially boost I-O response rates. FB-001, for example, contains 148 bacterial strains sourced from multiple donors. 

Microbiome companies—particularly those launched by Flagship Pioneering—have had a mixed bag of results as of late. Some have seen success, such as Flagship-founded Seres Therapeutics and Nestle Health Science, which had their oral microbiome-based therapeutic approved by the FDA in April to treat recurrent Clostridioides difficile, the first such therapy on the market. 

But other companies have had persistent failures, including Evelo, which cut its atopic dermatitis candidate after seeing disappointing data. Fellow Flagship company Kaleido shut down last year after stalling out.