Taysha lays off 35% of staff, narrows R&D focus to keep funding its top gene therapies

The pink slips keep raining down like confetti in biotech. Taysha Gene Therapies is the latest company to decide to slim down, bidding farewell to 35% of its workers and narrowing its R&D focus to extend its cash runway out to the fourth quarter of next year.

Like many other biotechs, Taysha has endured a tough start to 2022, with its share price falling by almost 50% since the turn of the year. The fall of the stock from $25 last summer to $12 in January to $6 today has constrained Taysha’s ability to add to the $149 million cash pile it possessed at the end of 2021. With Taysha spending $132 million on R&D alone last year, the biotech needed to act to avoid running out of cash. 

Taysha revealed its plan Thursday in conjunction with the release of its fourth-quarter results. Rather than keep investing in all pipeline programs, Taysha is narrowing its focus to registration-directed gene therapy programs in giant axonal neuropathy (GAN) and Rett syndrome. 

To free up money for the two candidates, Taysha is minimizing its investment in its other ongoing clinical programs and pausing all additional R&D. The narrowing of focus has cost 35% of Taysha’s workers their jobs. Taysha ended 2020 with 38 employees, all of whom were full time and based in the U.S.

TSHA-101 is the main pipeline casualty of the changes. Taysha presented clinical data on the candidate in Tay-Sachs disease and Sandhoff disease in January. The first recipient of TSHA-101 died. The death was deemed unrelated to the gene therapy but could have been linked to the immunosuppression regimen. 

While the death overshadowed a readout that delivered early evidence that TSHA-101 increases levels of an enzyme at the heart of rare diseases, Taysha pushed ahead while considering tweaks to the study. The strategy subsequently changed, with Taysha stopping enrollment in the phase 1/2 as part of its decision to bet its future on its GAN and Rett syndrome gene therapies. 

By narrowing its focus and using the $100 million debt facility it secured last year, Taysha expects to have the cash to keep going deep into 2023. The runway now extends well beyond an anticipated regulatory update on the GAN program and the delivery of preliminary phase 1/2 data in Rett, both of which are due this year.