With Nasdaq delisting threat, IMV drops 3rd of staff in refocus on lead oncology asset

It’s been a turbulent first year for IMV’s CEO Andrew Hall. In July, the company was threatened with Nasdaq delisting. Now, IMV has initiated a significant strategic reorganization that will allow the biotech to focus on its lead oncology asset at the expense of a third of his workforce.

Reducing its head count is expected to help the company prioritize maveropepimut-S (MVP-S), a T-cell activating immunotherapy designed to deliver antigenic peptides from a cancer antigen called survivin. Specifically, Hall is pinning his hopes on two phase 2b trials: the VITALIZE trial in relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and the AVALON study in advanced, metastatic ovarian cancer.

The company’s current pipeline also lists phase 2 development of MVP-S in combination with Merck’s Keytruda for bladder cancer and phase 1 for breast cancer. It also has a peptide vaccine called DPX-SurMAGE in a phase 1 trial with MVP-S for bladder cancer.

The restructuring, announced today, Sept. 15, is aimed at allowing the company to focus its resources on “key near-term value drivers while reducing cash burn and future cash needs.” An IMV spokesperson told Fierce Biotech they were unable to provide a precise figure of employees who would be affected, but said that most departments will be impacted. 

“We have made the decision to strategically reconfigure IMV in order to maximize shareholder value and focus resources on driving to near-term value-creating milestones,” Hall, who joined the company at the start of the year, said in the release. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the affected employees. Each of them has made valuable contributions to advance MVP-S and have, by virtue of these efforts, positively affected the lives of people with cancer.”

It's not the first sign of trouble at the company. In July, IMV revealed it was facing potential delisting from the Nasdaq if its stock remained below the minimum bid price of $1 per share. The stock was trading down 5% at 70 cents in premarket trading this morning.

Perhaps a hint of difficulty could also be detected in the company’s most recent financial results in August, where Hall said he hoped a readout from the VITALIZE study—an early update of which is now expected later this month —would “bolster the enthusiasm around the unique capabilities of our delivery platform to make cancer vaccines clinically viable.”

The company had cash and equivalents of $31.1 million as of the end of June, with the money expected to run out by the second quarter of 2023 under IMV’s previous trajectory.