ReNAgade lays off 10% of its team 6 months after launching with $300M

ReNAgade Therapeutics launched this year with $300 million and a joint venture with Orna Therapeutics, reeling in Merck as the two’s first partner.

But now the biotech is laying off 10% of its staff “to focus efforts towards program teams that will help accelerate the path to DC & IND,” according to a company statement provided to Fierce Biotech Tuesday morning. The company launched in May with about 100 employees.

In today’s biotech economy, no amount of financing is a soft-enough cushion for employees. ReNAgade’s downsizing follows similar decisions this year from the likes of CRISPR Therapeutics and Eikon Therapeutics, two well-capitalized biopharmas that, on the surface, would seem far from layoffs.

ReNAgade’s $300 million was the second-largest private financing so far this year—behind only ElevateBio’s $401 million series D, which came just 24 hours after ReNAgade’s this past May. But by October, Fierce would report that Elevate had laid off 13% of its team, as well. 

ReNAgade is working to advance the field of RNA-based therapies and snap up some of the technological dominance that’s been owned by Moderna in recent years. To do so, the biotech is working to bring a myriad of editing and delivery tools under one roof, with the hopes of being a one-stop RNA shop. The joint venture with circular RNA biotech Orna Therapeutics was an extension of that effort. Orna just underwent its own round of layoffs, a spokesperson confirmed. 

Steering the ship were a trio of crucial veterans, including Chief Scientific Officer Pete Smith, Ph.D., and Chief Operating Officer Ciaran Lawlor, Ph.D., both of whom previously worked at Moderna. CEO Amit Munshi was evidently unable to shake the biotech bug, taking the top job after selling Arena Pharmaceuticals to Pfizer.

At the time of the company’s launch, Munshi told Fierce Biotech that the focus would be on prioritization, noting that preclinical non-human primate data in three extrahepatic tissues uncovered 20 potential indications. He said that internal development was “moving faster than we expected,” and that a pipeline would likely be unveiled in the next year.