Kronos cuts 19% of staff to make way for phase 1/2 solid tumor drug

After achieving a positive outcome in a preliminary look at a phase 1/2 trial for a solid tumor candidate, Kronos Bio is restructuring and cutting staff.

The workforce reduction will see 19% of employees headed out the door in an effort to extend Kronos’ cash runway, according to a Thursday press release. CEO Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., said the layoffs were “difficult but necessary.”

Separately, Kronos announced the presentation of early data from a dose-escalation portion of a phase 1/2 trial for KB-0742 showing anti-tumor activity. Kronos said the data confirmed earlier preclinical evidence that the therapy could be effective for difficult to treat sarcomas.

Now, Kronos is ready to go all in on the cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) inhibitor.

“The data demonstrated on-mechanism, single agent anti-tumor activity in heavily pre-treated patients with transcriptionally addicted solid tumors,” Bischofberger said in a Thursday statement. “We have not yet defined a maximum tolerated dose and we may unlock even better anti-tumor activity at higher doses or on alternative schedules as the study progresses.”

Cutting back its workforce will result in charges of approximately $1.8 million in severance payments for the departing staff, according to a regulatory filing. This will be incurred in the fourth quarter, with the cuts expected to be completed as of Thursday. Further charges of up to $300,000 may be incurred over the next six months for health insurance reimbursements.

Besides KB-0742, Kronos will prioritize its Genentech-partnered programs and lanraplenib, which is being studied in a phase 1b/2 study for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

“By streamlining our operations and extending our runway, we best position the company to optimally fund our KB-0742 clinical studies while continuing to focus on the clinical development of lanraplenib, the advancement of our maturing discovery projects, and our collaboration with Genentech,” Bischofberger said.

The Genentech partnership is crucial for Kronos. In January, the companies signed an initial two drug discovery programs in oncology, with each one focused on a transcription factor chosen by Genentech. The Roche unit jumped in to save the day for the struggling biotech with a $20 million upfront payment plus milestones that could top $177 million for the first program and $100 million for the first licensed product.

In the months prior to the Genentech deal, Kronos had given up on an AML candidate due to enrollment challenges for the phase 3 test. At the time of the Genentech partnership, Kronos said its cash runway would stretch into the second half of 2025.

The restructuring will now extend Kronos’ runway into 2026.