- Things aren't looking particularly fertile at troubled OvaScience. The biotech is halving its headcount through March 2018, describing the move as an effort to improve its "financial position through corporate restructuring."
- The shaving down is expected to incur one-time costs of $1 to $1.5 million, and lead to annualized cost savings beginning in the second quarter of 2018.
- OvaScience has shifted its focus away from Augment, an approved fertility treatment that uses patients' own mitochondria, and towards OvaPrime and OvaTure, which increase the number of eggs available for in vitro fertilization.
The decision to stop efforts to promote Augment treatment was made in June 2017, and in its third quarter 2017 financial statement the company stated that it had "generated limited revenues to date, and [did] not anticipate significant revenues in the near term."
By the end of September 2017, the company had an accumulated deficit of around $293 million, with annual net losses since its inception, despite marketing Augment in a number of markets outside the U.S. At the time, it suggested that the cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $75.7 million would be sufficient to fund it through to third quarter 2018. A reduction in workforce of around 50% was initiated in June 2017, which followed a previous cut in December 2016 of around 30%.
This current drop in workforce, by another 50%, comes at the same time as a new CSO, James Lillie, will attempt to sweep clean with a new focus on R&D.
"OvaScience grew rapidly to accommodate the global commercialization of the Augment treatment. Following the strategic decision to focus our resources on the advancement of OvaPrime and OvaTure, however, we are now operating with a tighter research and development focus," said Christopher Kroeger, the company's CEO.
The firm has faced skepticism in the past over Augment, which supplements the patient's egg with mitochondria during in vitro fertilization. The data seemed to be limited, and the uptake didn't meet the company's expectations.
OvaPrime, which is based around the company's assertion of the value of taking egg precursor (EggPC) cells from the ovarian lining and transplanting them to the ovaries where they can mature during the IVF process, is in an ongoing Phase 1 trial.
The company contends the process is safe and well tolerated. Enrollment has closed and they expect a readout of six-month safety data of all patients in the Phase 1 stage by year-end 2018 and a readout of embryo transfers by the end of the third quarter of 2019.
Based on this data, OvaScience is planning a Phase 1b/2a stage in women with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) and poor ovarian response (POR). The study is due to begin in the first half of this year, with initial clinical data in 2019.
OvaTure, in preclinical development, aims to allow the maturation of the EggPC cells outside the body, avoiding the need for women to undergo hormone treatment.