Fate, Century, and TCR2 Therapeutics have planned to reorganize in the new year signaling longer plans for cell therapy development for cancer.
San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics announced that it would be ending its partnership with Johnson and Johnson after the larger company proposed a revision to the terms and conditions of their partnership. Consequently, in the first half of 2023, Fate will have to slow down joint activities.
Fate has also announced that it will be reducing its employee headcount from the previously 449 it reported at the end of 2021 to 220 employees.
The company had approximately $475 million in cash by the end of last year and after reducing expenditures further expects that these funds will be sufficient to fund operations till the end of 2025.
Restructuring operations on a broader scale has also been on the company’s agenda. The company will be putting the development of 4 of its clinical-stage candidates that use natural killers, or NK cells, on hold and prioritize the development of several earlier-stage projects.
Similarly, Century Therapeutics shared that it will be cutting its workforce by 25% as well as minimizing investment in an experimental treatment like that for glioblastoma and discovery research in blood cancers. The company will not consolidate operations in Philadelphia and shut down operations in Ontario, Hamilton, and Seattle. Given these developments, Hy Levitsky, Century’s head of research and development resigned.
At the same time, TCR2 Therapeutics has also revealed that it will be laying off 25% of its staff and narrow the focus of an ongoing clinical trial. The company will simultaneously work on “second-generation” T cell therapies.
All three of these biotechnology companies have been working to develop new forms of cancer cell therapies and have jumped on the wave of biotechs aiming to improve on the first cancer cell therapies brought to market by Novartis, Gilead, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Johnson & Johnson. The cuts to research and staff only indicate that a longer research road still needs to be trudged, one that the companies and investors had not expected initially.
The end goal for all these companies is to develop cell treatments that are more convenient, and capable of working in different cancer types, such as solid tumors.
Fate and Century, both use induced pluripotent stem cells as the basis of their treatments, and both are experimenting with using NK cells, rather than T cells.
These companies, however, are running into technical challenges and competition from a class of drugs known as bispecific antibodies that latch onto both immune cells and cancer cells. These drugs have been acting as alternatives to CAR-T cell therapies for certain cancers like lymphoma.