Restructuring, Workforce

Genocea shelves its lead drug, slashes staff and switches focus to trendy neoantigens

Neoantigens are a hot commodity right now in the sizzling immuno-oncology field, and that looks too attractive for Genocea to pass up on.

The biotech $GNCA says it is shelving work on its lead, Phase III-ready program for genital herpes, putting it up for auction as it slashes 40% of its staff and refocuses the company.

Genocea had 87 staffers at the end of last year, which will translate into about 35 employees losing their jobs.

None of this is sitting well with investors, though, with the biotech’s shares down 73% in the early afternoon.

Chip Clark

Out goes GEN-003, now ready for late stage testing for anyone willing and able to do the right deal. And up moves the preclinical program for GEN-009, slated for Phase I in early 2018.

CEO Chip Clark touted the biotech’s platform tech for its ability to pick the right neoantigens for a CD8- and CD4-positive T cell response.

Over the past two years neoantigens have been gaining increasing favor with a group of companies looking to develop personalized cancer vaccines. That’s provided a mother lode of cash for top players like Gritstone, which recently posted its venture haul to $195 million.

Genocea could use some cash like that. The company was down to $35 million in cash at the end of H1.

Says Clark:

With our research and development efforts now focused entirely on neoantigen cancer vaccines, we believe the power of ATLAS to identify the right vaccine antigens, combined with our vaccinology expertise, gives us the opportunity to create value for our shareholders by developing best-in-class vaccines for cancer patients and achieving leadership in this exciting field.


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