Kinnate lays off 70% of staff, pulls back from programs to save cash after data disappointment

Kinnate Biopharma is cutting deep. Months after its delayed cancer data disappointed investors, the biotech has revealed it is laying off 70% of its staff and narrowing its pipeline to stretch its cash reserves into the second quarter of 2026. 

The Californian biotech’s share price has dropped 69% to $1.70 over the past six months, a period that covers the release of initial monotherapy data on the pan-RAF inhibitor exarafenib. Having initially hailed the exarafenib melanoma data as positive, Kinnate is now pulling back from the program by trying to find a partner for further monotherapy development while continuing to work on a combination internally.

Kinnate’s decision to continue investing in exarafenib as part of a combination is underpinned by data on the effects of giving the molecule with the MEK inhibitor binimetinib, which Pfizer sells as Mektovi. The biotech saw “radiographic tumor reductions” in 12 of the 20 efficacy-evaluable patients with NRAS-mutant melanoma who received the combination. 

The exarafenib combination and KIN-8741 are the two named programs to survive Kinnate’s rethink of its pipeline. KIN-8741 is a c-MET inhibitor that Kinnate sees as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. The biotech expects to file to study the candidate in humans in the fourth quarter.

Analysts at William Blair welcomed the changes, calling the pivot a “prudent move to focus on [the] most promising programs.”

“While we acknowledge some uncertainty after today’s restructuring and reprioritization, we believe the company’s pipeline carries meaningful value that is not reflected in the current negative enterprise value, and that with multiple catalysts over the next two years we see ample opportunity to realize some of this value,” the analysts wrote in a note to investors. 

Kinnate’s decision to focus on the exarafenib combination and KIN-8741, plus discovery work on CDK4, leaves other programs out in the cold. The biotech is pausing development of KIN-7136, a MEK inhibitor that is cleared to enter the clinic, and exploring strategic alternatives for exarafenib monotherapy and KIN-3248, a FGFR inhibitor that Kinnate began testing in solid tumor patients last year.

As of Sept. 11, Kinnate had enrolled 54 patients in the KIN-3248 dose-escalation clinical trial and seen two partial responses. The response rate could improve, with seven patients at the predicted efficacious dose yet to reach their first scans, but Kinnate has decided to spend its dollars elsewhere. 

The pipeline prioritization will put around 65 people out of a job. Kinnate, which had 94 employees at the end of March, is laying off around 70% of its staff to reduce its head count to 28. The cuts involve “separating from all employees” at the wholly owned Chinese subsidiary Kinnjiu Biopharma.

Kinnate’s staff will focus on the two remaining programs. In the fourth quarter, the biotech plans to select two doses for further development in its exarafenib combination program and file an IND for KIN-8741. Kinnate ended June with $204.3 million.