PMV lays off 30% to fund phase 2 trial of remaining solid tumor drug

PMV Pharma is laying off 30% of its staff as the precision oncology biotech prioritizes pushing its lead solid tumor candidate toward a phase 2 trial in the coming months.

The drug, PC14586, became PMV’s “primary focus” as far back as March 2023, when the company pressed pause on two preclinical tumor candidates. PC14586 has undergone a phase 1 trial in patients with advanced solid tumors with a p53 Y220C mutation, while a separate arm of the study is assessing the drug in combination with Merck & Co.’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda.

The early-stage trial had shown an overall response rate of 38% observed at the 2000 mg daily dose planned for the phase 2 study across tumor types ranging from ovarian and breast to prostate and small-cell lung cancer.

The biotech entered the new year with $229 million in cash and securities, almost maintaining the $238.1 million it had to hand back in September. At the time, the company attributed part of a $5.5 million increase in R&D expenses to “increased headcount and clinical expenses to advance research on PC14586.”

Halting its two preclinical candidates, both small molecule, tumor-agnostic therapies targeting p53 mutations, back in March was meant to stretch PMW’s cash runway into the first half of 2025. Now, with the phase 2 trial of PC14586 due to launch this quarter, the company wants to ensure it has funds to last longer. That’s where the layoffs come in.

“PMV will maintain a focused discovery research effort and expects that the resulting savings in operating expenses will extend its cash runway to the end of 2026,” the company said in its post-market release Thursday.

“This is a difficult but necessary step to ensure that PC14586 is developed as efficiently as possible to benefit patients,” CEO David Mack, Ph.D., added in the release.

The wild-type, or normal, p53 protein is part of the body’s natural defense against cancer. However, mutations in p53 are known to drive the formation of several kinds of cancer. PMV’s approach is designed to restore misfolded p53 proteins to their normal function, which it believes could lead to the killing of cancer cells without harming normal tissues.