Generation Bio eliminates 40% of staff, including 2 C-suite execs, in pivot to ex-liver targets

Generation Bio is laying off 40% of its staff as part of an R&D pivot to extend the biotech’s cash runway into the second half of 2027. The layoffs, which will see the biotech's chief development and medical officers exit the building, are part of a pivot to targets beyond the liver.

Massachusetts-based Generation went public in 2020 with a pipeline of gene therapies designed to hit targets in the liver and the eye. Work on hemophilia A hit a major setback the following year but the biotech’s pipeline continued to revolve around the two organs. Now, Generation is shifting focus to the belief there is “a clear path” to developing its own programs against targets beyond the liver.

Many of Generation’s employees will need to take a different path. The biotech, which employed 150 people at the end of last year, will reduce its headcount by 40% by the end of the second quarter of next year. Generation expects the layoffs and other reductions in spending to save $120 million over three years.

The layoffs have hit the biotech’s C-suite, with Chief Medical Officer Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief Development Officer Tracy Zimmermann, Ph.D., among the people handed pink slips. Generation is set to part ways with the pair in late January. 

The changes reflect the refocusing of R&D. Applying a cell-targeted lipid nanoparticle delivery platform to the development of wholly-owned programs in extrahepatic cell types is now a top priority. Generation will also continue to develop immune cell programs with Moderna—which inked a deal with the biotech in March—and apply its iqDNA platform to hemophilia A and other diseases.

An October statement about iqDNA, an abbreviation of immune-quiet DNA, provided an indication that change was afoot at Generation. The statement revealed the biotech was switching focus from its closed-ended DNA to the related iqDNA based on evidence that the latter technology evades host innate immune detection. That strategic shift extended the biotech’s cash runway into 2026.

The layoffs coincided with news of cuts at AbCellera Biologics, which is reducing headcount by 10% "to better focus its efforts towards the clinical development." AbCellera has more than $1 billion, giving it the funds to operate beyond the next three years.