Sana slashes staff and drops in vivo CAR-T program to cut costs

Sana slashes staff and drops in vivo CAR-T program to cut costs

Sana Biotechnology, amid challenging stock performance, is undergoing its second significant restructuring in less than a year. This move involves scaling back its in vivo delivery platform and reducing its workforce by 29%, an adjustment aimed at extending its financial runway into 2025. 

The Seattle-based cell engineering biotech entered the public domain in February 2021 when biotech stocks were peaking, successfully raising $587.5 million before embarking on clinical endeavors. However, since then, its stock has followed the broader market’s downward trend, plummeting from an initial high of nearly $40 per share to its current value below $4. The company’s initial plans to introduce in vivo and ex vivo therapies to human trials as early as 2022 were delayed. Consequently, last year, Sana streamlined its focus and laid off 15% of its workforce.

Almost a year later, following earlier reductions specifically “within a single area of research,” the biotech is implementing a 29% workforce reduction. Sana had 424 full-time employees at the end of June, indicating that over 100 individuals may be affected by these layoffs.

Also Read: September Layoffs: A Recap Of Recent Workforce Reductions In Biotech And Pharma

This restructuring coincides with a renewed focus on the company’s core priorities. In the past, Sana shelved its heart failure program but continued to invest in ex vivo candidates targeting CD19, CD22, and BCMA, along with an in vivo CD19-targeted CAR-T and a stem-cell-derived pancreatic islet cell therapy for Type 1 diabetes patients. However, the company has now abandoned plans to advance its in vivo CAR-T candidate into clinical trials. This represents a notable departure from Sana’s earlier strategy, where in vivo programs comprised the bulk of its pipeline and were scheduled to enter human trials concurrently with ex vivo assets. Sana initially presented in vivo delivery as a means to circumvent the complexities and expenses associated with ex vivo CAR-T production and the need for conditioning regimens.

Fast forward around 30 months, and Sana is no longer pursuing clinical studies for its in vivo candidate in humans. The focus has shifted, with the priority now being to advance a portfolio of ex vivo assets towards generating clinical data. Sana initiated a phase 1 trial for the CD19-directed CAR-T SC291 in B-cell malignancies in May, with the intention of delivering data later this year. Additionally, submissions for studying SC291 in autoimmune disorders, islet cells for diabetes, and a CD22 CAR-T in leukemias are planned for this year.

This strategic shift positions Sana to provide clinical data on three candidates across various settings next year. The recent restructuring has effectively prolonged the company’s financial runway, providing an extended period to either rekindle investor enthusiasm through positive results or address any potential setbacks.

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