- The San Diego-based biotech Tocagen said Thursday it will lay off 65% of its workforce, or about 55 employees, in a corporate retrenchment following the failure of a key brain cancer study last month.
- The restructuring will leave the company with about 30 workers. CEO Marty Duvall said Tocagen's immediate priorities are to finish review of data from that trial, present results at the Society for Neuro-Oncology's annual meeting next month and meet with regulators about potential next steps.
- The immunotherapy and chemotherapy combination of Toca 511 and Toca FC is essentially Tocagen's entire pipeline. Even after falling short in high-grade glioma, the drug pairing is still being tested in a Phase 2/3 study of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma and in a Phase 1 study for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.
Even with a drastic scale down of its business, Tocagen's path forward isn't yet clear.
The biotech said it would give financial guidance later this year and didn't provide specifics Thursday on cost savings or revised cash burn rates, beyond estimating severance and termination benefits at approximately $1 million.
Each million counts for a small biotech in Tocagen's position. The company had about $68 million in cash, equivalents and marketable securities at the end of June, according to the latest available financial results.
Any future cash raises will be limited by the company's greatly diminished stock price, which has fallen more than 90% in 2019. Tocagen's market value now amounts to less than $15 million.
Testing will continue for Toca 511 and Toca FC, though. The Phase 2/3 glioblastoma study is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and is being conducted by the nonprofit research group NRG Oncology.
Glioblastoma has proven a tough target for drugmakers, which have struggled to develop effective treatments. Earlier this year, AbbVie and Bristol-Myers Squibb both announced trial failures in the brain cancer.
The cancer research community will see detailed data results from the Toca 5 trial in high grade glioma at the neuro-oncology conference, scheduled for Nov. 20 to Nov. 24 in Phoenix, Arizona.