- Passage Bio, a Philadelphia-based gene therapy developer, will cut jobs and pare back spending in an effort to save cash and focus resources on three experimental treatments currently in clinical testing.
- The restructuring, announced on Tuesday, will reduce Passage's workforce by 13%, or by between 15 to 20 employees, according to a company spokesperson. Additionally, Eliseo Salinas, Passage's head of research and development, will retire and be replaced by the company's chief medical officer, who joined in July.
- Announcement of Passage's plans follows one week after Liam Ratcliffe, a director on the biotech's board, resigned due to a "disagreement with the company regarding its business plans and operations." The spokesperson said in an email that Ratcliffe's resignation was a "personal decision."
Stung by the sharpest stock market downturn for biotech in years, a growing number of drugmakers have sought to trim their spending and reprioritize their research plans in recent months. On Tuesday, Passage wasn't even alone in announcing layoffs; Ovid Therapeutics, a New York biotech developing medicines for seizure disorders, said it would reduce its workforce by 20%.
Gene therapy companies have been particularly hard hit, with at least four others beginning layoffs since December. Earlier this month, Bluebird bio, long one of the field's leading companies, said there was "substantial doubt" about whether it could remain solvent for the next 12 months.
Co-founded by the well-known gene therapy researcher James Wilson, Passage raised $154 million in an initial public offering in January 2021, at the height of the recent boom in biotech IPOs. Its market capitalization quickly exceeded $1 billion, fueled by the prospects of its pipeline of experimental treatments for neurological diseases like GM1 gangliosidosis, Krabbe disease and frontotemporal dementia.
Since then, Passage's shares have lost nearly 90% of their value.
With the restructuring, Passage will prioritize work on its therapies now in clinical testing, which it's developing in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania's Gene Therapy program. Research will proceed without Passage's R&D head, however, who will depart on March 18 "in conjunction with the headcount reduction."
Passage's remaining executive team is new, too, with the chief medial officer, chief financial officer and chief commercial officer having joined at the end of last summer.
The company estimates the reduced spending will extend its cash runway into the second quarter of 2024, about six months longer than it forecasted earlier this month.