Histogen consigned to history after search for strategic solutions comes up short

Two months after halting its remaining development program in a last-ditch attempt to conserve cash, Histogen has run out of options and will wind down.

After “extensive consideration of potential strategic alternatives,” the biotech’s board has made the call to dissolve the business. It means that all bar two employees will be heading for the exits by Sept. 30, including CEO Steven Mento, Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer Alfred Spada, Ph.D.

Chief Financial Officer Susan Knudson will remain behind and tack on CEO responsibilities to her remit, Histogen explained in a postmarket release Monday.

The move follows an attempt to find a financial escape route for the struggling biotech, including roping in Roth Capital Partners to act as a strategic adviser. While “no viable strategic alternatives” could be found, Histogen is continuing to put out feelers for a sale of what’s left of its pipeline.

But even if a yard sale of assets proves successful, the proceeds will be distributed to shareholders rather than trying to keep the company afloat.

“The board of directors and management devoted substantial time and effort in identifying and pursuing various opportunities, but we were unable to complete a transaction that would allow us the potential to enhance stockholder value,” Mento explained in the release.

The immune-focused biotech had been shrinking its pipeline over recent years to stay afloat, with a phase 1 alopecia treatment dropped in 2021 in order to focus on orthopedics. But in March this year, the company felt compelled to lose both of those candidates, leaving emricasan as its sole clinical-stage asset.

By July, even emricasan had to go, despite ambitions to get the pan-caspase inhibitor into a trial for acute bacterial skin infections later this year. The decision to junk the med, which had previously undergone trials for COVID-19 and other conditions, had been expected to extend the company’s cash runway of $9.7 million, which otherwise was due to run out by January 2024.

Histogen is only the latest biotech to go under this year. So far in 2023, we’ve seen Sorrento Therapeutics and Athenex file for bankruptcy, Talaris Therapeutics and Oncorus let go of nearly all of their employees and Vedere Bio II and Vyant Bio begin winding down operations.