Nutcracker Therapeutics lays off 12 employees less than 18 months after $167M series C

Big money RNA biotech Nutcracker Therapeutics laid off 12 employees, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

The company said it "reduced a limited number of positions" to focus on ongoing preclinical programs and "strengthening" the platform, according to a statement provided late Wednesday. A spokesperson reiterated that the company currently has no plans to ax any of the three ongoing programs. The layoffs were relayed June 15, according to the sources, less than 18 months after the biotech closed a mammoth $167 million series C round. 

"We are supporting every impacted employee with additional resources through this process," the company said. 

The biotech cemented itself last year with the nine-digit financing round backed by Arch Venture Partners, which at the time was slated to help “expand and advance” a pipeline of cancer therapies in addition to fine-tuning the manufacturing platform. 

Nutcracker described that platform as a “GMP-in-a-box” and the “core of the company’s therapeutic effort” when it announced the $167 million round. In other words, Nutcracker aims to bring together the design of molecules, selection of delivery method and manufacturing under one proverbial roof. 

The company’s lead program, NTX-250, is going through IND-enabling studies as a treatment for HPV-driven tumors. The company has yet to disclose the target for the med. A runner-up asset, NTX-565, is in the lead candidate identification process. 

The company presented preclinical data at the 2023 American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting showing that a locally administered mRNA cancer therapy was superior to an intramuscular HPV16 vaccine. The researchers, which included scientists from the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California, found that tacking on immune modulators to the mRNA therapy had better tumor clearance in rate models. 

Last year’s fundraising haul was more than double the company’s prior two rounds combined, which comprised a $60 million series B raised in 2020 and $14 million prior to that. The sizable increase is emblematic of the investor interest in RNA-based therapies following Moderna’s pandemic ascension. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised this year alone, including a $300 million financing for ReNAgade Therapeutics and $270 million for Orbital Therapeutics. 

Editor's note: This story was updated to include a statement from Nutcracker Therapeutics.