LianBio lays off half of workforce as biotech begins to wind down

LianBio has become the latest biotech to throw in the towel, with the Chinese company announcing that a four-month strategic review has concluded there's no choice but to wind down.

The move will come as no surprise to observers, with the company’s CEO and chief financial officer both jumping ship in December 2023. That same month saw the biotech turn down the chance to be bought out by Concentra Biosciences, which LianBio’s board viewed as undervaluing the company.

Instead, the Shanghai-headquartered biotech announced this morning that it will begin the process of winding down operations “immediately,” at the same time looking to sell off its remaining assets. Both the end of operations and the asset sales are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The dissolution of the company isn’t expected until closer to 2027, however.

LianBio has already been emptying its stable, selling the China rights to the blockbuster cardio drug mavacamten to Bristol Myers Squibb in October and handing over its rights to a radioenhancer called NBTXR3 to Johnson & Johnson in December.

The profits from any sales of the company’s leftover assets will be distributed among LianBio’s shareholders before the biotech is dissolved. “However, there is no guarantee that any shareholder’s original investment, or any material amount, will be recovered,” the company pointed out in the Feb. 13 release.

By the end of March, the biotech also expects to have laid off 50 full-time employees—half of its staff —with “additional workforce reductions” due to occur during the year.

“The company will maintain a core group of employees necessary to implement an orderly wind down of the company and support its efforts to maximize the value of the company’s remaining business and assets,” LianBio added.

The biotech expects to delist shares from the Nasdaq around March 18, not long after handing out $528 million as a special cash dividend to holders of the company’s American depository shares

LianBio ended September with $252.2 million in cash and equivalents. A month later, the company used the announcement of the sale of the mavacamten rights to BMS to reveal it had launched a “comprehensive strategic review” of the business but gave no other clues to the rationale behind the decision.

Earlier this month, small drug discovery biotech Vyant Bio revealed it was also taking steps to wind down operations, including reducing its workforce, pursuing strategic alternatives and saying goodbye to CEO John Roberts.