Sana Downsizes Staff by 29%, Refocuses on Ex Vivo Cell Therapy Platform

Layoffs_iStock, Andrii Yalanskyi

Pictured: Artistic rendition depicting widespread layoffs/iStock, Andrii Yalanskyi

Sana Biotechnology launched on Tuesday a portfolio realignment initiative that will see the company narrow its R&D focus to its ex vivo cell therapy platform and move away from an in vivo gene delivery program.

As part of the strategic shift, Sana will lay off 29% of its workforce—or approximately 120 employees—with an eye toward reducing its 2024 operating cash burn to below $200 million. According to the company, this will allow Sana’s current cash runway to extend further into 2025 while also providing leeway for investments in clinical capabilities across various indications.

“This strategic re-positioning enables us to deliver significant clinical data across multiple drug candidates with the current balance sheet,” Sana CEO Steve Harr said in a statement.

Under the pipeline cuts, Sana will no longer work toward an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for SG299, an in vivo CAR T-based therapy being developed for hematologic cancers. Sana will nevertheless continue to conduct research on the “innovative” platform.

Instead, the biotech will lean into its ex vivo hypoimmune (HIP)-modified cell therapies. Its lead candidate, SC291, is currently being evaluated for B-cell lymphomas and leukemias in the Phase I ARDENT study in which enrollment is ongoing. Initial clinical data for the candidate is expected later this year and in 2024.

Sana also plans to test SC291 against autoimmune diseases, for which it has already submitted an IND to the FDA, according to its website. The company expects to report preliminary clinical data across several different indications in 2024.

Sana’s third HIP-modified asset, dubbed SC262, is a CD22-directed allogeneic CAR T therapy similarly being developed as a therapy for patients with B-cell lymphomas and leukemias who had failed CD19 treatments. The company will submit an IND for this candidate in the fourth quarter of 2023, with preliminary data expected next year.

According to the company’s website, Sana also has several other HIP assets, including SC255 for multiple myeloma and SC451 for type 1 diabetes.

Sana is “increasing focus on three therapeutic areas” that can fully utilize the company’s HIP platform to “address large unmet needs with curative intent,” Harr said. These areas include “allogeneic CAR T cells in oncology, allogeneic CAR T cells in autoimmune diseases, and pancreatic islet cell transplantation in type 1 diabetes.”

Tuesday’s downsizing follows a previous round of layoffs in August 2023, which was first revealed through a series of LinkedIn posts made by company employees. Sana later confirmed the downsizing to Endpoints News, but did not disclose exactly how many were let go. The biotech also underwent a strategic reorganization in November 2022, which included a workforce reduction of around 15%.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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