Life Sciences Insight

Fierce Biotech Layoff Tracker: Finch culls 37% of workforce; Mereo makes cuts after investor pressure

The pace of biotech layoffs is coming so fast that even we at Fierce Biotech could not write our feature on the issue fast enough to encapsulate them all. As we hit publish on our story, more companies announced they were letting staff go.

Every single day, we’re seeing new companies announce that, regrettably, they will have to cut back on head count. C-suites have not been immune, either, with a few companies relieving key leaders of their duties as they restructure to face a tumultuous market and make or break regulatory or research moments.

September—1 company so far

NEW—September 1, 2022: Finch Therapeutics: The microbiome-centered biotech is showing 37% of its workforce the door. The layoffs come a week after Takeda’s decision to hand back the rights to two preclinical inflammatory assets that the companies had been collaborating on for years and is the second Finch workforce cut this year (see April).  

August—13 companies  

NEW—August 31, 2022: Mereo BioPharma: Under pressure from an activist investor, the U.K. biotech has reduced its head count to stretch its cash runway out into the second quarter of 2025.  

August 30, 2022: Codiak BioSciences: The Massachusetts biotech has cut its workforce down to 53 full-time employees—a 37% reduction meant to reflect a new, smaller pipeline. The company is also seeking partnerships at both the corporate level and for specific clinical candidates. 

August 24, 2022: PACT Pharma: The oncology biotech has suspended its lone clinical triala phase 1 study halted due to a “business decision”and is diverting 54 employees towards a new “business development venture,” according to CEO Scott Garland. The 54 staffers were originally part of the 94 slated to be laid off at the end of August. 

August 24, 2022: Aeglea BioTherapeutics: After receiving a refusal-to-file letter from the FDA for its rare disease drug pegzilarginase, Aeglea has laid off 25% of its workforce. The biotech’s CEO Anthony Quinn is also leaving the company. 

August 18, 2022: Clarus Therapeutics: The Jatenzo developer has slashed staff by 40% and cut certain R&D projects as it grapples with debt, voicing “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue. As of June 30, Clarus had $19.2 million in cash and cash equivalents, and an accumulated deficit of $347.2 million.  

August 15, 2022: Avanir Pharmaceuticals: The California biopharma has cut 16 employees, a 13% reduction from its current team of 115, according to a WARN notice obtained by Fierce Biotech. The permanent layoffs will be effective October 14.

August 9, 2022: Vedanta: CEO Bernat Olle blamed “a challenging economic environment in biotech” for letting go of 20% of the microbiome-focused company’s workforce.

August 9, 2022: Absci: CEO Sean McClain published a message expressing his regret at a “workforce reduction.” The biologics company did not disclose how many employees were affected when contacted by Fierce.

August 8, 2022: MacroGenics: After seven patients died in a phase 2 trial, MacroGenics is doing some restructuring, leaving 15% of staff without a job.

August 8, 2022: Atara: It’s been a tough couple months for Atara Biotherapeutics after a mid-phase study for a multiple sclerosis cell therapy yielded inconclusive results, among other challenges. Now, 20% of staff are headed out the door as the biotech slims its R&D focus.

Zymergen: With the company’s acquisition by Ginkgo announced in July, employees at Zymergen may have been hoping they would be spared from a planned reduction in headcount. But a WARN filing has since confirmed that 74 staff in California will lose their jobs at the biotech in September.

VBL Therapeutics: Less than two weeks after a top asset flunked a phase 3 trial, VBL Therapeutics is laying off 35% of its staff. But even as the company looks to stay afloat, finances remain tight, with available cash able to last another year. 

Nuvation Bio: The biotech will not only discontinue development of one of its remaining tumor drugs but will lay off 35% of its workforce in a bid to keep the money flowing for another five years.

 

July—8 companies total

Assembly Biosciences: Accepting that its core inhibitor vebicorvir will fall short, the biotech is pivoting to earlier-stage candidates—and laying off 30% of staff to eke out its remaining cash.

X4 Pharmaceuticals: The immune system specialist is “streamlining resources,” resulting in a 20% staff reduction and the discontinuation of the biotech’s oncology program.

Inovio: The DNA medicine company has cut 18% of its workforce as it struggles to move a COVID-19 vaccine towards regulatory authorization. The restructuring will help extend the biotech’s cash runway into 2024. 

PACT Pharma: Nearly 100 employees were laid off from personalized cancer therapy maker PACT Pharma. The company most recently raised $75 million in a series C round that closed in 2020. 

Eisai/H3 Biomedicine: The Japanese pharma is closing U.S. oncology R&D wing H3 Biomedicine and moving the work into a different organization in the company. As a result, 88 jobs were axed. 

Biogen: After warning of future layoffs and restructuring for months, Biogen disclosed 301 jobs have been cut in recent months. In March, the company moved to “substantially eliminate” commercial infrastructure for the Alzheimer’s med Aduhelm following a tumultuous rollout.

CytomX Therapeutics: In the wake of its antibody-drug conjugate praluzatamab ravtansine falling short in a phase 2 trial for triple-negative breast cancer, the biotech announced plans to reduce its 174-person headcount by 40%.

Adverum Biotechnologies: The gene therapy biotech is slashing its workforce by nearly 40%, cutting 78 employees under a new restructuring plan that will funnel resources to ixo-vec, its wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treatment candidate.


June—8 companies total

Heron Therapeutics: The biotech has cut 34% of its total workforce as part of efforts to save an annual $43 million. About 70% of the cuts will come from research and development jobs. 

Avadel Pharmaceuticals: Looking to extend a $100 million cash runaway ahead of a potential commercial launch, Avadel is cutting nearly 50% of its workforce. The company projects the move could save up to $14 million each quarter. 

Novartis: The large Swiss pharma is laying off 8,000 employees worldwide in a bid to save $1 billion. The cuts come as the company combines a number of business units, a plan that includes fusing the oncology and pharmaceuticals teams into one innovative medicines unit. 

RedHill Biopharma: The Israeli biotech will lay off a third of its U.S. commercial team as it looks to claw back $50 million in savings.

Vincerx Pharma: The cancer-focused biotech blamed tough market conditions for the decision to lay off 33% of staff and trim the biotech’s clinical focus.

Praxis: Following the failure of a phase 2/3 trial in major depressive disorder, the biotech announced a “reduction of the company’s workforce and future operating expenses.” More details as we get them.

Athersys: The stem cell biotech is going straight for the big ax, cutting 70% of staff and most of its C-suite after the stroke therapy MultiStem failed in a phase 2/3 trial in May.

Atreca: The oncology biotech plans to cull a quarter of its workforce, a move that includes both current employees and open positions. The cuts are part of a corporate reorganization announced June 1 that aims to fund the company through 2023.

May—5 companies total

Genocea: Less than a month after dwindling funds forced Genocea to ax 65% of its staff and seek out a sale, the company is officially closing up shop. The move means all remaining nonessential staff will be shown the door and the company will de-list from Nasdaq. 

Applied Molecular Transport: The biopharmaceutical company is cutting 40% of staff, bringing its full-time workforce to 81 employees. AMT co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Randall Mrsny, Ph.D., is also departing after more than a decade with the company.

Scholar Rock: The protein growth factor biotech is in a hard place, with plans to lay off 25% of staff, trim the pipeline and send CMO Yung Chyung, M.D., out the door. 

Agios Pharmaceuticals: After offloading its cancer business and snagging an FDA approval for Pyrukynd, Agios is looking to shake up its R&D operations to focus more on later-stage assets. That means 50 employees will lose their jobs, while 50 other R&D personnel will remain to drive the new focus

Spero Therapeutics: A tough call from the FDA on its urinary tract infection drug tebipenem HBr led Spero to announce it will lay off 75% of its staff. The cuts will reduce the biotech’s headcount from a full-strength total of 146 to just 35 full-time employees.

 

April—17 companies total
 

Genocea Biosciences: A few weeks ago, Genocea Biosciences was touting phase 1/2 data. Now, 65% of the workforce is headed out the door and the biotech is looking to sell itself.

Solid Biosciences: Another biotech re-prioritization will cost staff at Solid Biosciences, as the company reduces its workforce by 30% to refocus efforts on two key Duchenne muscular dystrophy programs.

Nektar Therapeutics: After a $3.6 billion immuno-oncology partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb crumbled, Nektar has had to make some difficult choices. The company has gutted its workforce by 70% and two key executives will depart. 

Black Diamond Therapeutics: After initially de-prioritizing a precision oncology drug in January, Black Diamond is calling it quits on the program. Along with a re-prioritization, the biotech will lay off 30% of its staff. 

Imara: Only six employees will remain at Boston-based Imara after 83% of its staff are cut. The company is reeling from the discontinuation of development for lead drug tovinontrine, or IMR-687, in sickle cell disease, beta-thalassemia and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. 

Finch Therapeutics: After a collection of setbacks, Finch is letting go 20% of its workforce. The layoffs, which are expected to be complete by the end of the second quarter, will impact about 37 full time employees. 

Sio Gene Therapies: The majority of staff at Sio Gene Therapies were let go during an all hands meeting, the biotech said April 27. 

Magenta Therapeutics: Magenta is saying farewell to 14% of its staff as the company focuses on its targeted conditioning stem cell program as well as its mobilization and collection asset for sickle cell. 

ProQR: Ophthalmology-focused ProQR is cutting 30% of its staff, including Chief Scientific Officer Naveed Shams, M.D., Ph.D., as the company re-strategizes following a phase 2/3 setback two months ago. 

Stryker: 88 workers have lost their jobs at a facility in Florida as part of rolling layoffs at medtech giant Stryker. 

PerkinElmer: As a COVID-19 testing contract winds down with the state of California, PerkinElmer is letting 75 people go effective June 4. The lab services giant is closing down operations at the California Department of Public Health’s laboratory in Valencia, a neighborhood of Los Angeles County.

Kaleido: After a dismal last eight months, microbiome-focused Kaleido Therapeutics is closing up shop and axing the rest of its workforce, including the CEO, CFO and CSO. The update comes a few months after the company trimmed its staff to stave off what increasingly seemed like an inevitable end after numerous ruptures to its pipeline. The company had accumulated a deficit that exceeded $360 million, acccording to its latest annual report.

Akebia: After a partial clinical hold and an FDA rejection, Akebia is cutting 42% of its workforce across “all areas of the company.”

Sanofi: The French pharma disclosed in a New York Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice dated March 31 (PDF) that 25 workers would be “dislocated” due to a plant closing in the state. The layoffs stem from the $1.9 billion acquisition of Kadmon, which Sanofi closed in November 2021. The filing said that the employees would be cut due to an integration of resources and the business would be permanently closing. The layoffs will begin on July 1 and wrap up by April 1, 2023. 

Catalyst Biosciences: The company is at a corporate crossroads, emblematic in the decision to switch up its pipeline and call for strategic alternatives. As a part of the soul-searching, 19 employees or 70% of remaining staff have lost their jobs, according to an earnings report released March 31.

Bluebird bio: A few weeks after its spinout announced layoffs, the same happened at bluebird. Facing several regulatory setbacks, the company is cutting 30% of its workforce. 

Novartis: A major restructuring is underway at Novartis, with several high profile executives caught up in the changes. The cuts will trigger some broader job losses as well, but the company has so far been mum on the details. 

March—17 companies total
 

Taysha Gene Therapies: Pink slips were handed out to about 35% of workers at Taysha in March as the biotech slimmed down its R&D focus. 

Zealand Pharma: After a new drug launch went sideways, Zealand had to reduce its workforce by a whopping 90%.

Bone Therapeutics: About a quarter of Bone’s workforce was let go in early March as the biotech scrambled to save cash

BridgeBio Pharma: After a disappointing phase 3 result stunned the company at the end of last year, BridgeBio cut an undisclosed number of employees. 

Silverback Therapeutics: A restructuring led to a 27% workforce reduction at Silverback, the biotech said at the end of March. Two clinical oncology programs were also shelved. 

Merck & Co.: The company’s Acceleron buyout ranked among the biggest deals of 2021, but Merck nevertheless moved to cut about 143 employees from the unit at the end of March. 

2seventy bio: The newly- spun out biotech confirmed in late March that about 6% of its workforce would be let go in an effort to reduce overhead costs. 

Orion: Another pipeline refocus claimed about 37 employees in late March as the company pivoted to cancer and pain. 

Zosano: About 31% of staff was cut from Zosano’s bench, according to a March 17 earnings release, as the biotech explored strategic options. 

Athenex: In an effort to lower operating costs by 50%, Athenex cut its workforce, although details were slim in the March 16 earnings release. 

Ovid Therapeutics: After a rough year, Ovid announced a new focus on its epilepsy- and seizure-related programs in March, saying 20% of staff would be cut in the process. 

Passage Bio: The gene therapy biotech trimmed its workforce by 13% and doubled down on a partnership with James Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., and his University of Pennsylvania lab in March. 

Orphazyme: Struggling Danish meme stock biotech Orphazyme announced a second round of layoffs in March amid a court-mediated restructuring.

Adaptive Biotechnologies: About 100 workers lost their jobs at Adaptive in March as the biotech trimmed down to focus on minimal residual disease and immune medicine.

Gilead Sciences: Another Big Pharma caught up in the trend, Gilead laid off 114 workers based out of the former Immunomedics headquarters in New Jersey. 

Biogen: After a tumultuous nine months marked by a controversial Alzheimer’s disease approval and difficult launch for Aduhelm—not to mention several clinical flops—Biogen’s restructuring snared an undisclosed number of staffers in March. 

Epizyme: Two clinical studies and 12% of staff went out the door at Epizyme when the company reported earnings March 1. 

February—5 companies total
 

Gemini Therapeutics: President and CEO Jason Meyenburg departed Gemini along with 24 employees in late February. 

Yumanity: Sixty percent of Yumanity’s workforce is expected to leave by April as the neurodegenerative-focused biotech seeks a buyer, the company said in February. 

Metacrine: After a NASH failure last year, Metacrine halved its staff and adjusted to focus on inflammatory bowel disease in February.

Biosplice: Once worth $12 billion, Biosplice laid off 41 workers in early February and culled a male pattern baldness drug.

Unity Biotechnology: The anti-aging biotech once again laid off workers in early February, with half of the staff getting the cut. The company also reprioritized to focus on ophthalmology.

January—8 companies total
 

Gamida Cell: This late January wave of layoffs was cushioned by some good news: Gamida Cell was initiating a rolling FDA submission for the blood cancer treatment omidubicel. But the biotech would need help from strategic partners and a 10% reduction in head count to get the filing across the finish line. 

Kaleido Biosciences: Flagship Pioneering-incubated Kaleido shrank its workforce, halted a planned phase 2 trial and terminated an agreement with the COPD Foundation in January. 

Zymeworks: New CEO Kenneth Galbraith quickly wielded the ax to reduce headcount by 25% and halve the cancer biotech’s C-suite in January, just days after taking over the executive job. 

Acutus Medical: A number of employees lost their jobs Jan. 19 when Acutus Medical moved to slash tens of millions of dollars from its annual operating expenses. The company did not disclose the full toll, but said they would be required to file a public disclosure under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires 60-day notice before employers lay off at least 50 workers.

Leo Pharma: Leo Pharma announced some major restructuring on Jan. 19 that hit about 68 employees right away. But the reorganization could ultimately affect 1,000 positions over the next two years. The company is shutting down its regenerative medicine innovation hub and science and tech centers in Asia and Boston. 

Daiichi Sankyo: Cuts at the Japanese pharmaceutical company announced Jan. 12 impacted about 60 employees. The company shut down its Plexxikon R&D operation in South San Francisco, 10 years after buying the biotech for $805 million upfront.

BeyondSpring: The biotech axed 35% of its U.S. staff on Jan. 12 after the FDA rejected its chemotherapy-induced neutropenia drug called plinabulin.  

Spectrum Therapeutics: Spectrum announced a 30% staff cut Jan. 5 in an effort to save cash and focus on mid- and late-stage cancer meds. The move followed an FDA rejection in August 2021. 

Editor’s note: This tracker was updated at 8:56 A.M. E.T. on 8/25 to correct that PACT Pharma is not laying off 51 new workers. The company is instead diverting 54 employees towards a new business development venture. 

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