Adaptive Biotechnologies lays off 12% of workforce to narrow immunosequencing tech

About 100 workers are being laid off as Adaptive Biotechnologies reorganizes its business, homing in on just two core areas of healthcare that can be served by its immune system-focused genetic sequencing technology.

The layoffs comprise around 12% of the Seattle-based company’s workforce, which tallied 858 full-time employees as of the end of 2021, according to Adaptive’s latest annual report.

Alongside the layoffs, Adaptive said it will also “deprioritize” any projects or programs that don’t fit into the company’s newly defined areas of focus: minimal residual disease and immune medicine.

“While it is difficult to part ways with valuable team members who have made important contributions to Adaptive, we are at an inflection point in a rapidly evolving industry and workplace and believe these changes will put us in a stronger position to deliver on our mission and vision,” Chad Robins, CEO and co-founder, said in a statement.

Amid this restructuring, Adaptive has tapped a new chief financial officer: Tycho Peterson is taking on the CFO role after more than 20 years as managing director of the life science tools and diagnostics segment within J.P. Morgan Chase’s healthcare group.

“Tycho has been a leader in this space over the last two decades, during which disruptive technologies such as genomic sequencing and artificial intelligence have driven a complete paradigm shift in diagnostics and precision medicine,” Robins said.

“As the space continues to transform toward the data-driven development of diagnostics and therapeutics, Tycho’s intimate knowledge of the technologies and what it takes to realize their potential will be instrumental in our mission to power the age of immune medicine,” he continued.

According to a note to investors from the analyst firm William Blair, Peterson’s appointment is expected to have a “positive effect” on Adaptive’s stock. Indeed, within the first few hours of the company’s announcement on Wednesday, its share price had jumped more than a dollar from Tuesday’s closing price to just under $13 per share.

Weinstein also suggested that Adaptive’s decision to streamline its business to focus on just two core areas will simultaneously strengthen its internal operations and make it easier for those outside the company to understand its purpose, since “the complexity of the Adaptive story has long been difficult for investors to fully comprehend.”

Adaptive is developing technology to sequence the genetics of the adaptive immune system, which comprises the T and B cells that adapt to fight new pathogens that come from outside the body, in contrast to the pre-programmed cells of the innate immune system.

In the realm of minimal residual disease, Adaptive will continue developing its clonoSEQ test, which is used by clinicians to detect remnants of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and by pharmaceutical companies to fine-tune their drug development.

In immunology, meanwhile, the company is working with Microsoft to build T-cell maps that can then be used to create new diagnostic and drug discovery tools like those used by Adaptive’s pharma and medtech partners, such as Genentech.