Inovio orders 2nd round of layoffs in 6 months after vaccine flops

Six months after laying off 18% of its workforce, Inovio is sending out more pink slips. This round of redundancies will see 11% of remaining employees heading for the exits as the biotech unveils yet another restructuring.

The company blamed the latest layoffs on the decision of Inovio and its partner the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to pull the plug on their Lassa fever and Middle East respiratory syndrome vaccine candidates in November. Around 24 employees will be affected, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, which the company estimates should save it $4.3 million annually, with resources redirected to key programs like human papillomavirus (HPV)-related INO-3107, the biotech said.

INO-3107 is currently in phase 1/2 trial for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis—in which warts form on the voice box or vocal cords—caused by HPV. A readout for the trial’s second cohort is due in the next two months, along with data from a phase 3 trial of Inovio's VGX-3100 for cervical high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions.

“Today's announcement is a reflection of measured efforts Inovio has undertaken to assess the portfolio and prioritize those programs with the greatest benefit for patients and commercial potential,” CEO Jacqueline Shea said in a release Tuesday morning. “This decision followed thoughtful consideration and thorough diligence to better position the organization and ultimately realize the potential of DNA medicines.”

Inovio’s previous restructuring in July, which impacted about 55 employees, was designed to extend the company’s cash runway and allow for prioritization of its lead DNA medicine programs. By the end of September, the company still had $281.9 million in cash and equivalents in the bank, but this was a significant drop on the $401.3 million the biotech entered 2022 with.