Versant-backed 858 laid off select researchers, closed New York site tied to Gotham buy

Changes have been afoot at 858 Therapeutics, an RNA biotech tackling cancer and central nervous system disorders.

The company recently laid off an unspecified number of staffers in the research group to preserve funds and funnel money toward clinical development work in 2024. A statement from the company cited the “overall challenging macro conditions in the biotech sector” as the culprit for the difficult decision. 

858 confirmed the closing of its New York office, tied to the acquisition of fellow RNA biotech Gotham Therapeutics, while work is consolidated to the San Diego headquarters. The Gotham buy was announced when 858 closed its $60M series A in September 2021. 

“858 is financed well into 2024 and remains on track to achieve near-term milestones that will catalyze its next capital raise,” according to the statement from 858. 

The two-year-old biotech has been mum since unveiling the series A funds, only announcing additions to its board of directors and leadership team since. As of early February, the company hadn’t yet popped open the hood on its clinical plans, though a full pipeline was made public in March, according to the Internet Archive.

Leading the way is a PARG-targeting solid tumor drug that’s currently in IND-enabling studies, with a couple of other preclinical solid tumor meds waiting in the wings, targeting ADAR1 and METTL3, respectively. 858 also had a QPCT/L-targeting med designated for hematology and solid tumors when the pipeline was first unveiled but that’s now being designed to treat neurodegeneration. The company did not specify what "near-term milestones" are on the horizon. 

The buzz around the company’s launch centered on its leadership team, with CEO Jeffrey Stafford, Chief Scientific Officer James Veal, Ph.D., and Vice President of Biology Gretchen Bain, Ph.D., each having worked at a Versant company that was ultimately bought. So far, all three are still listed as company leaders, with Bain getting promoted to SVP of biology in April 2022. At the same time, Sanjay Trehan was brought on to spearhead business development efforts, though no collaborations have been announced yet. 

Stafford did not respond to a request for comment on LinkedIn when asked about the company’s changes. He told Fierce Biotech in an interview at the time of the launch that the funds would help grow the team to about 40 employees over the subsequent 18 months.