Tough markets take a double hit on Vincerx's workforce, clinical program

In a now familiar tale across biotech, cancer-focused Vincerx Pharma is laying off staff and cutting its pipeline in an effort to try to stay alive by extending its cash runway into late 2024.

CEO Ahmed Hamdy, M.D., blamed the tough market conditions for the decision to lay off 33% of staff and trim the biotech’s clinical focus to three cancer indications. The company will now focus on moving lead asset VIP152 through the clinic alone in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and as a combo therapy in high-risk CLL.

“Given the unprecedented market conditions, we are making a strategic decision to focus our resources on our ongoing double-hit DLBCL and CLL clinical trials and our next-generation bioconjugation platform to deliver the greatest benefit in these patients as well as maximize value for our shareholders,” Hamdy said.

VIP152 has been tested across a wide variety of cancers, according to Hamdy, including ovarian, where it resulted in stable disease.

“The VIP152 program was designed as a signal-seeking program,” he said. “Despite this preliminary signal in ovarian cancer, the combination of challenging market conditions and the promising VIP152 preclinical and clinical data we have seen in double-hit DLBCL and CLL patients create a compelling rationale for us to focus our efforts on these two indications.”

As for the staff cuts, Hamdy said it was “not an easy decision.” However, the move is necessary to allow Vincerx to focus on the three indications and reduce operating expenses.

The company will continue to work with its preclinical bioconjugation platform as well, which creates novel therapeutics for solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. Vincerx still plans to file a request for human testing of VIP236 for solid tumors in the second half of the year. Two other therapies off the platform, VIP943 and VIP924, are currently in manufacturing with testing requests expected in the second half of 2023 and in 2024, respectively. The therapies aim to improve efficacy and safety compared with current antibody-drug conjugates on the market.

Vincerx is the latest company to be hit by layoffs, a phenomenon seen across the industry amid a market correction for biotechs. Last week, Athersys reduced its headcount by 70% and Atreca slashed 25% of staff.

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