Future shaky at Solid Bio as it shaves off 35% of workforce, chief operating officer plans exit

Things are anything but stable at Solid Biosciences, a life sciences company targeting therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, as it plans to cut over a third of its workforce—for the second time in two years—and Chief Operating Officer Joel Schneider, Ph.D., departs.

Schneider, after serving as the company’s chief operating officer for more than a year and working across various roles for eight, will be exiting at the end of May. He’s heading to take on the CEO position at a privately held, viral-based gene therapy platform company, but the name was not undisclosed.

Meanwhile, Solid Bio is shaving down its pipeline, updating its corporate operations strategy to prioritize the advancement of key programs, SGT-001 and SGT-003, both AAV-mediated gene transfer therapies. The reorganization includes narrowing R&D down to only those related to SGT-001, SGT-003 and next-generation capsids. The thinned pipeline is forcing the company to slash its headcount by 35%.

It’s not the first time the company has made a significant cut to its workforce. In the beginning of 2020, the company reduced its staff by a third, with Alvaro Amorrortu, M.B.A., chief operating officer at the time, and Jorge Quiroz, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer at the time, both exiting.   

That round of layoffs followed a series of unfortunate events for Solid Bio. In 2018, the FDA placed a partial hold on the phase 1/2 trial for SGT-001 after reports of adverse events. The partial hold was upgraded to a full clinical hold over manufacturing concerns related to higher doses, though the company was able to resume enrollment by mid-June 2018 after amending its study protocol.

In 2019, however, more reports of adverse events forced a clinical shutdown of the trial. One patient who received a higher dose of the therapy showed signs of liver damage, while others experienced a decline in platelet counts and other side effects.  

But Solid was finally able to get things back on track by 2021, reporting in March that the therapy had been administered to a handful of patients without causing any of the previous adverse events.

The current reorganization aims to reduce planned expenditures and is anticipated to extend funding of operations into the second quarter of 2024. The company is transitioning SGT-001 to a commercially scaled manufacturing process, advancing SGT-003 toward an anticipated request in early 2023 to enter clinical trials and aligning the organization behind these two programs, Ilan Ganot, CEO, president and cofounder of Solid Bio, said in an April 27 news release.

“The strategic decision to streamline our manufacturing operations will allow us to consolidate our resources to support both SGT-001 and SGT-003 to important clinical milestones,” said Mr. Ganot. “I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the team members who were impacted by this reorganization. Each individual has made important contributions toward our mission of improving the lives of patients with Duchenne.”

Job security isn’t just shaky at Solid Bio but actually reflective of a broader trend sweeping the industry. To read more about layoffs across the biotech industry, check out Fierce Biotech's Layoff Tracker.