Genocea's Atlas no longer holding up sky, as biotech moves for sell off

Just weeks ago, Genocea Biosciences was touting phase 1/2 data that seemed to provide proof of concept for the biotech’s T cell therapy in patients with solid tumors at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in New Orleans.

Now, the biotech has hired an investment bank to conduct a strategic review and potentially sell off the company entirely or in parts. The restructuring will also include layoffs impacting 65% of the workforce in the second quarter.

The future of the clinical programs, including the AACR-featured GEN-011, are under review “to determine an appropriate course of action,” according to Genocea’s Thursday evening release.

An investment bank has been tapped to lead the strategic review, which will consider alternatives including a sale of all or parts of the company, a merger or a reverse merger.

Genocea is the latest biotech to announce major layoffs, a trend that has swept across the industry amid a market correction. The company’s Atlas platform profiles a patient’s T cell response to potential targets, identifying those that can be used to develop immunotherapies. Besides GEN-011, the biotech is running a phase 1/2a trial for the neoantigen vaccine GEN-009 and conducting other research for new targets using Atlas.

Earlier in April, Genocea said that GEN-011 showed a consistent pattern of anti-tumor activity in five heavily pre-treated patients with advanced solid tumors and progressive disease. The early results corroborated preclinical findings, even though the patients received the lowest doses to be included in the study, according to the company. The trial was expected to continue with dose escalation to find a more effective regimen.

This is not the first time Genocea has had to resort to layoffs and offload assets. The company axed 40% of its staff and moved to sell a herpes drug with mixed clinical results in 2017. The biotech also pivoted to the neoantigen cancer vaccine sector at that time. 

To read more about layoffs across the biotech industry, check out Fierce Biotech's Layoff Tracker.