STUNG: Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs reaches for the budget ax — again — on the heels of their latest setback with Novartis
A little less than a year ago, Aduro $ADRO CEO Stephen Isaacs started 2019 by whacking about a third of the staff. In what’s become an annual event now, he’s kicking off 2020 by eviscerating the remaining staff, laying off 51 staffers while cutting more than half the head count at the Bay Area biotech.
As SVB Leerink’s Daina Graybosch noted Thursday evening, the latest downsizing — which includes closing their sub in the Netherlands — comes after Novartis kicked loose their STING agonist ADU-S100.
Aduro will focus spend on their two clinical programs: ADU-S100 with pembrolizumab (MRK, OP) in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, as well as BION-1301 (anti-APRIL) in Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy. They will also continue discovery of new cGAS-STING candidates as part of their collaboration with Lilly for auto-immune disease and Novartis for cancer (systemic agonists).
“We are creating a more streamlined organization by focusing on generating clinical data and identifying candidates for the cGAS program to bring forward into development,’ said the CEO in a prepared statement.
Aduro went public close to 5 years ago at $17 a share, touting a pair of cancer vaccines and an oncology pipeline, then saw the stock price rise to $40 soon after. After that, things got rough — but very slowly.
A warmed up cancer vaccine — GVAX, one of the initial wave — was a bust. Late in 2017 their other cancer vaccine CRS-207, reengineered Listeria monocytogenes, hit the wall after a long and troubled development program, forcing Isaacs to wash his hands of the effort.
Then J&J backed out of a prominent alliance last fall. And Merck didn’t make anything better when it acknowledged at ESMO that its own STING therapy didn’t actually work on its own.
On Thursday Aduro’s stock closed at $1.33.