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Biotech layoffs claim more jobs at Sensei, Instil, TherapeuticsMD

Three drugmakers, Instil Bio, Sensei Biotherapeutics and TherapeuticsMD, disclosed plans this week to lay off staff, joining a long list of more than 100 other biotechnology companies forced to do the same this year.

The pace of job cuts has remained high as 2022 has gone on. Companies currently face more limited funding options than have been available to them in previous years, making the clinical and regulatory setbacks typical in biotech a greater threat.

Since July, BioPharma Dive has reported on 25 drugmaker layoffs, including at high-profile companies like BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Galapagos, Vesalius Therapeutics, Rubius Therapeutics and Adverum Biotechnologies. Fierce Biotech has tracked another 29 companies in the third and fourth quarters, adding to 54 in the first half of the year counted by the trade group BIO.

Others have restructured their research or drug pipelines without immediately cutting jobs. The bulk of the layoffs have come at smaller companies that, in the past, may have been able to price initial or second stock offerings as a way to raise additional funds. However, the IPO window has largely been closed this year and a weak market for biotech stocks has made secondary offerings less lucrative.

Instil, which has been developing cell therapies for cancer, on Thursday said it will discontinue one of its research programs in favor of another, called ITIL-306, that’s in Phase 1 testing. As a result, the company will cut its workforce by 60% to “re-align its operating model from a registration-focused company to a development-stage company.”

Instil had 412 full-time employees as of December 2021, with 352 working in research and development. Shares fell by nearly 20% Thursday, dropping below $1 apiece. The stock is down by about 95% since the biotech went public in a $320 million IPO in March 2021.

Sensei, meanwhile, announced it will close a research site in Boston and reduce its overall workforce by 40%. The company employed 44 staff as of Nov. 1. Sensei expects the cost savings associated with the two moves to extend its cash runway into 2025.

Research done at the Boston site will be relocated to another facility in Rockville, Maryland, where development of Sensei’s lead drug will continue, the company said. Sensei plans to advance the candidate into clinical testing early next year.

Shares in Sensei have lost about 75% of their value this year.

The job cuts are deepest at TherapeuticsMD, which revealed in a filing with Florida state regulators that it’s cutting all of its 212 staff. The decision comes several days after the women’s health company agreed to a deal to sell its drug portfolio to Australia’s Mayne Pharma and transform itself into a “pharmaceutical royalty company.”