Layoff surge hits 3 more biotech companies

Three more biotech companies have joined the unfortunate—but increasingly common—layoff trend, fueling the epic and growing wave of industry layoffs.

With more than 30 layoffs tallied by Fierce Biotech, the overpopulated industry is being forced to cut down. Today, immuno-oncology biotech Silverback Therapeutics announced a restructure that reduces its workforce by 27%, decreases operating expense and extends its cash runway into 2026. The Seattle company is also discontinuing its SBT6050 and SBT6290 clinical oncology programs, instead funneling resources into its discovery pipeline and chronic hepatitis B virus asset known as SBT8230.  

“Upon comprehensive review of our clinical and preclinical data for our TLR8 oncology programs, we have made the decision to discontinue the development of SBT6050 and SBT6290 and focus our resources on SBT8230 for chronic HBV as well as our ImmunoTAC discovery programs,” Laura Shawver, Ph.D., Silverback’s CEO, said in a March 31 release. “We would like to thank the investigators and the staff at each of our sites, and most importantly, the patients who participated in our trial and their families.”

Plans for SBT8230 appear on track to complete phase 1 regulatory submission in the fourth quarter of 2022, said Valerie Odegard, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer.  

Silverback had IPO'ed in 2020 with promises of SBT6050 targeting TLR8 in solid tumors that express the HER2 gene. The company sought out a $100 million IPO and instead more than doubled those hopes with a $242 million debut.   

For 2021, Silverback reported a net loss of $89.5 million, a large leap from its 2020 net loss of $32.9 million. And its jump in general and administrative expenses for 2021 to $28.1 million compared to $8.3 million the year before were primarily attributable to an increase in personnel-related expenses due to increased headcount, Silverback said.  

Silverback isn’t alone, with several other biotechs forced into similar positions. Earlier reports detailed staff cuts at BridgeBio Pharma, and CEO and founder, Neil Kumar, Ph.D., confirmed the layoffs today to Fierce Biotech, though he did not provide any numbers or further context.

In a LinkedIn post from two months ago, Mary Harmes, Ph.D., former regional medical director, wrote, “due to some disappointing clinical data on another program, Bridge had to cut our team (and many others) today. I’m on the market!”

Last December, the company released surprising phase 3 trial results, showing placebo patients fared better than those with treatment. Despite the disheartening data, the company continued to the next trial phase based on the recommendation of an independent data monitoring committee.  

"This is part of a necessary and ongoing cost reduction process. We are sorry to see our colleagues go—a great number of whom contributed significantly to our mission to serve patients,” Kumar said.

And lastly—for now at least—Bone Therapeutics joined the ever-growing layoff list, whittling its workforce down by a quarter earlier this month.  

“The company, in the efforts to save cash and focus its activities on the clinical asset ALLOB and the execution of the clinical trial TF2, had already, and prior to this action today, let go of about 25% of the workforce earlier in March,” Miguel Forte, CEO of Bone Therapeutics, confirmed March 30.

Today, March 31, Taysha Gene said farewell to 35% of its staff and narrowed its R&D focus to extend its cash runway out to the fourth quarter of next year. Since the start of the year, the biotech’s share price has fallen almost 50%.

As the biotech industry awaits market correction, the prolonged layoff wave begs the question—what if it doesn’t?