Freeline Therapeutics, facing fading cash runway, mulls buyout by investor Syncona

With a cash runway that could run out of tarmac in the next six months, British biotech Freeline Therapeutics is considering the offer of a buyout from its majority shareholder Syncona.

The London-based investment firm made a nonbinding proposal yesterday to acquire the biotech for $5 per American depository share, Freeline confirmed in a Securities and Exchange Commisssion filing.

The biotech’s board has formed a committee tasked with “exploring and evaluating all strategic and financing opportunities available to the company, including Syncona’s proposal,” Freeline explained. Leerink Partners has also been drafted to provide financial advice.

The offer comes at a time when Freeline needs a strategy to keep its show on the road. In its second-quarter earnings report in August, the biotech revealed that the $38.8 million in cash and equivalents it still had to hand at the end of March would only fund its operations through to the second quarter of 2024.

Stevenage, England-based Freeline has already had to shrink its footprint via a series of layoffs over the past year, as well as offload a subsidiary and pause work on its Fabry disease gene therapy.

The significant restructuring has left the company focused on FLT201, an adeno-associated virus gene therapy candidate for Gaucher disease, which was shown to be well tolerated in positive initial data from a phase 1/2 trial that read out earlier this month. Freeline still continues to work on a GBA1-linked Parkinson’s disease program.

For its part, Syncona has also been trying to navigate the strong biotech headwinds earlier this year, blaming a “disappointing” drop in its returns at the start of 2023 on plummeting share prices for British biotechs across its portfolio in December. The firm’s website currently highlights 13 portfolio companies—including Freeline—which are primarily spread across cell therapies, gene therapies and small molecules.