3 more biotechs look to cull, partner assets in hopes of forging ahead

The third quarter of 2022 has proved to be the season of biotech pipeline culls, with three more companies setting out plans this morning to shed programs in hopes that the lighter load will allow them to forge ahead in rocky market conditions.  

First up was Prelude Therapeutics, an oncology biotech discontinuing development of its PRMT5 program, which encompasses two phase 1 trials assessing selective protein arginine methyltransferase 5 inhibitors called PRT543 and PRT811. The discontinuation comes as the biotech aims to channel resources to compounds that have the highest likelihood of success, according to a Nov. 14 release.  

The U.S. biotech believes those programs are its CDK9 inhibitor and MCL1 Inhibitor, both of which are being separately studied in phase 1 trials for solid tumors.   

“With this prioritization, we believe we can generate proof-of-concept clinical data in the next 12 to 24 months to guide our future regulatory pathways to approval,” said Jane Huang, M.D., Prelude’s president and chief medical officer, adding that she believes the CDK9 and MCL1 programs “offer the best chance to improve patient outcomes.” 

Meanwhile, gene therapy biotech Syros Pharmaceuticals is seeking a partner for its oral CDK7 inhibitor, dubbed SY-5609. This move would “maximize the potential” of the asset, and the biotech will seek partnership opportunities while continuing dose escalation in the ongoing phase 1 study among patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

The company is looking for a partner who has the resources to push the asset forward, Syros CEO and President Nancy Simonian, M.D., said on a Nov. 14 earnings call. Development will continue for SY-5609 among patients who have colorectal cancer in a Roche-partnered phase 1/1b trial.   

Syros will instead channel its internal resources toward its late-stage hematology portfolio, which includes programs in higher-risk myelodysplastic syndrome, acute myelodysplastic syndrome and acute promyelocytic leukemia.

Evaxion is another company that is not quite ready to say goodbye to any programs. Instead, its strategic focus on its “clinical lead oncology assets and partnering” means it will look to out-license its cancer candidates EVX-01 and EVX-02/03 once it's provided clinical proof of concept data. The Danish biotech also intends to hand off some early-stage infectious disease programs, such as its Staphylococcus aureus vaccine, to others.

In a Nov. 14 release, Evaxion’s new CEO Per Norlén emphasized the importance of prioritizing activities in the current market. Norlén took over last month when former CEO Lars Staal Wegner, M.D., resigned after a 10-year run with the company.