- Less than two years after launching, the gene therapy company Intergalactic Therapeutics has laid off all its employees after struggling to bring in enough cash for development.
- “The current environment has led to challenging times for companies to raise capital,” according to a LinkedIn post from an employee who ran external manufacturing and supply chain operations at the company. “Intergalactic was not immune to these challenges and all employees have been laid off,” the employee added.
- Company spokeswoman Heather Shea confirmed the layoffs to BioPharma Dive Wednesday, saying the company made “the difficult decision, given the current environment, to restructure and explore strategic options." The Boston Business Journal first reported the news Tuesday. Founding investor ATP couldn’t immediately be reached.
Former Biogen executive Michael Ehlers built Intergalactic with a vision to create a different type of gene therapy that wouldn’t need viruses as delivery systems. His team believed they could instead use electroporation, a method that uses electrical fields to open a path for DNA to enter cells.
The company’s website describes its work as “expanding the universe of gene therapy.” And even as the startup closed up shop, Shea said in Intergalactic’s statement that the company’s “platform and programs have shown promise.”
But biotechnology investors have shown little willingness to bet on early-stage promise for more than a year now. Gene therapy companies have been particularly vulnerable. Just last week, gene editing biotech Homology Medicines said it would slash 87% of its workforce, stop research and look for a buyer.
All told, almost 100 drugmakers have laid off staff this year, according to data compiled by BioPharma Dive. At least 13 life sciences companies in the Boston area alone have shut their doors in 2023, according to the BBJ.
For gene therapy companies, this year may well be a pivotal one. Despite the challenges knocking out smaller upstarts, the industry has seen several Food and Drug Administration approvals since 2022 and patients are beginning to be treated. Bluebird Bio in May said the first commercial infusions were completed for its two gene therapies, Zynteglo and Skysona.
Closely watched launches are also underway for a hemophilia A gene therapy from BioMarin Pharmaceutical and a Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment developed by Sarepta Therapeutics. In December, meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is set to decide on approval of the first CRISPR gene editing therapy, a medicine for sickle cell disease developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics.