Kronos sends another 5th of staff to the exits 5 months after last layoffs

Kronos Bio has made its second round of layoffs in five months, with another fifth of the biotech’s workforce heading to the exits as the company focuses on a CDK9 inhibitor.

Laying off 21% of staff will help extend the cash runway into the second half of 2026, allowing the company to “maximize the potential” of KB-0742. The decision is tied to a review of “additional positive preliminary safety and efficacy data” from an ongoing phase 1/2 study of the CDK9 inhibitor, according to a March 7 release.

Kronos has already pointed to early data from a dose-escalation portion of the trial that showed anti-tumor activity. At the time, Kronos said the data confirmed earlier preclinical evidence that the therapy could be effective for difficult-to-treat sarcomas.

The company expects to read out top-line data from an expansion cohort of the study, which could contain patients with either small cell or non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer or triple negative breast cancer, in the first half of next year.

Kronos will also continue to push the KAT inhibitor KB-9558 through ongoing preclinical studies and into human trials, the release said. The biotech only recently unveiled the internally developed candidate, which is designed to modulate the IRF4 transcription regulatory network—a key driver in multiple myeloma.

“Building upon the positive data for KB-0742 that we have previously reported, these measures enable us to assess the potential for additional clinical benefit of the drug at an extended dosing schedule in patients with transcriptionally addicted tumors,” CEO Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., said in the release.

The latest restructuring follows a similar pattern in November 2023, when Kronos let go of 19% of its workforce. Those layoffs were designed to extend the cash runway into 2026, the company said at the time.

Kronos’ C-suite hasn’t been shielded from the layoffs, either. In January, the biotech announced a “streamlined leadership structure designed to focus on pipeline advancement.” In reality, this meant that the company jettisoned three key roles: chief medical officer; chief scientific officer; and chief operating officer and general counsel.

Kronos already slimmed down its pipeline with the discontinuation of a cancer trial for lanraplenib in December and began hunting for a partner to continue development of the SYK inhibitor—making it the second acute myeloid leukemia (AML) candidate to disappoint the biotech.

Kronos also has a partnership with Roche’s Genentech for several undisclosed discovery programs. The Genentech partnership, signed in January 2023, is crucial for Kronos, having come along right after the biotech kicked a late-stage AML asset called entospletinib to the curb. 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.

“The measures we have taken today, while difficult, will streamline our operations, extend our runway, and best position us to advance our maturing discovery projects, including our collaboration with Genentech, and to advance KB-9558 through IND-enabling studies and into the clinic,” Bischofberger added in yesterday’s release.