Sana Biotechnology will cut 15% of its workforce in latest layoffs affecting Seattle companies

Seattle-based cell and gene therapy company Sana Biotechnology will reduce its workforce by 15%, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

The company said it was shutting a program focused on heart failure and outlined reset priorities for other programs. The layoffs will be complete by the end of the year, according to an SEC filing.

Between 75 to 80 employees are affected, Sana’s vice president of finance Nicole Keith told GeekWire. The company has operations in Seattle, South San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass.

“With such a diverse pipeline and vast opportunities presented by our science and technologies, portfolio prioritization is critical, and we have taken steps to stay in a position to seize the opportunities ahead,” said Keith in an email to GeekWire.

“This prioritization entails making tough program and resource decisions, but it is the best way to preserve a path to patients for our lead programs as we transition to a clinical stage company,” added Keith.

Sana raised $587 million in February 2021 when it went public in the largest ever IPO for a preclinical stage biotech company. Sana now plans to take its first potential therapy into clinical trial next year with more to follow.

In its third quarter financial report the company said it had $511.6 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities on hand. The company has enough cash runway to last into 2025, according to Tuesday’s statement.

Sana joins a list of other tech and life sciences companies cutting headcount amid the broader market downturn. Sana’s stock is down more than 70% this year, trading at about $4.63 on Wednesday, down from a peak of $39.87 shortly after its IPO.

“Losing talented and valued colleagues is painful, and we thank them for their contributions to Sana’s mission,” said Sana CEO Steve Harr in the statement. “Prioritization is important, and we will continue to make decisions bsed upon internal data, external evolution of the field, and the company’s needed capabilities,” he added.

The biotech industry boomed during the pandemic but now faces a sluggish funding environment and waning valuations. Adaptive Biotechnologies, Absci, and Zymeworks also announced layoffs this year. Seattle startup TwinStrand Biosciences also reportedly laid off staff.

This summer, Sana announced plans to build an 80,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Bothell, Wash., resulting in $100 million in savings over a previously chosen site in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Sana expects to file its first investigational new drug application (IND) this year with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a CAR T cellular therapy product, setting the stage for a clinical trial. The therapy for B cell malignancies is an “off the shelf” product derived from donor cells (targeting a molecule called CD19). Data are expected in 2023.

Sana also outlined plans to file IND next year for another CAR T cell therapy product for B cell malignancies (targeting CD22). And it aims to file an IND next year for an experimental treatment that has the potential to generate therapeutic cells inside the patient. The company also aims to file INDs for potential cellular treatments for type 1 diabetes and multiple myeloma in 2024.

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