Passage decides 26% of staff, 2 execs not needed on voyage deeper into clinic

In a tricky financial climate, we’re increasingly used to hearing about biotechs reducing head count for their early-stage R&D work. But Passage Bio has decided to go in the other direction, laying off employees in its chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC) group to prioritize its development strategy.

The “organizational redesign” will see a 26% reduction in workforce, primarily among CMC employees—who are tasked with ensuring drug quality throughout the product development life cycle. As well as to extend the company’s resources, Passage said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the intention is to “better align the biotech’s resources” with its R&D strategy.

Joining their CMC colleagues heading out the door will be Passage’s Chief Financial Officer Simona King and Chief Technical Officer Alex Fotopoulos, who are both set to leave the company next week. King had been in the CFO role less than two years, having joined the company at another period of significant upheaval for Passage's C-suite.

Kathleen Borthwick, who currently serves as vice president of finance at the company, will step up as interim CFO, Passage said.

Back in May, the central nervous system disorder-focused company was already highlighting its “steady focus” on its two lead clinical programs—PBGM01 for GM1 gangliosidosis and PBFT02 for frontotemporal dementia—both of which are set to produce interim data this year.

Safety and biomarker data for the fourth cohort of the phase 1/2 study in GM1 gangliosidosis, a genetic disorder that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, are due to read out midyear. Similar data sets are due from the dementia trial by the end of the year.

Passage ended March with $167.8 million in cash and equivalents, which as of May it still expected to last into the first half of 2025. The newly announced layoffs, combined with other “ongoing cash management initiatives,” mean the biotech now expects it will be able to fund its clinical programs through to the fourth quarter of 2025.

It’s not the first time the company has scaled back its workforce. In March 2022, Passage revealed plans to trim its head count by 13% as it prioritized R&D work deriving from a partnership with James Wilson, M.D., Ph.D, and his University of Pennsylvania lab.