Oncology biotech Atreca pulled into industry’s layoff whirlpool, cuts 25% of staff

After resisting as long as it could, small oncology biotech Atreca has finally succumbed to the layoff surge pulling in other fellow biotechs and plans to cull a quarter of its workforce.

The layoffs—which include both current employees and open positions—are part of a corporate reorganization announced June 1 that aims to fund the company through 2023.

The biotech has 134 employees listed on its LinkedIn page, which still boasts a link for those interested in becoming part of the biotech’s team.

The industry's layoff whirlpool seems to broaden each day, sucking in more and more biotechs as they face clinical setbacks and a tough market downturn. In the last two months alone, the bear market has forced at least 22 biotechs to lay off staff.

Atreca says it will continue to develop novel antibody-based immunotherapeutics, focusing in on developing ATRC-101, ATRC-301 and other preclinical oncology programs. ATRC-101—the biotech’s lead candidate—is currently Atreca’s only clinical-stage asset. The candidate works to activate myeloid cells of the innate immune system and drive tumor destruction.     

“We look forward to sharing additional monotherapy and combination data from the ongoing phase 1b clinical trial of ATRC-101 as well as key preclinical toxicology data from the ATRC-301 program later this year,” John Orwin, Atreca’s president and CEO, said in a news release. “While it is difficult to part with so many talented and valued members of our team, we view this as a necessary step to ensure we have the capital required to execute on our mission to deliver novel therapeutics to patients in need. I’d like to thank those leaving Atreca for their important contributions to the company.”

The layoffs may be the start of a steep fall from grace for Atreca. Highlighted in 2016 as a Fierce 15 innovative biotech to watch for, the California-based company had funding and partnerships from big names like GSK, J&J’s Janssen, Sanofi and Novartis. In 2018, the biotech closed a $125 million series C funding to step up its R&D activities before debuting on the market in 2019.

More recently, Atreca licensed its preclinical monoclonal antibody for the potential treatment of malaria to the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute in 2021. The terms of the deal were undisclosed, but Atreca received $6 million from the Gates Foundation in 2012 to discover potential treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.  

In April of this year, the biotech entered a licensing agreement with Canadian biotech Zymeworks to use its tech to develop new antibody-drug conjugates.

To read more about layoffs across the biotech industry, check out Fierce Biotech's Layoff Tracker.