Restructuring, Workforce

Troubled aTyr axes 30% of its staff as it wipes a preclinical slate clean

Faced with disappointing results from its latest preclinical program, aTyr Pharma is cutting the development short and letting go around 30% of its staff.

The San Diego-based biotech $LIFE has discarded IND plans for what would have been its third clinical program, dubbed Project ORCA. In a statement, it said the restructuring and other cost-saving measures are aimed at getting its second asset, ATYR1923, on track for PhII development.

Sanjay Shukla

“This has been a very difficult process and we regret the impact this business decision has on our departing employees and their families,” said president and CEO Sanjay Shukla in a statement. “We are grateful for the many contributions of our impacted employees and I want to sincerely thank them for all their hard work and commitment to aTyr.”

ATyr had hoped that the antibodies in the ORCA project could reduce or reverse tumor growth either as a monotherapy or in combination with checkpoint drugs, but recent preclinical data showed the efficacy was insufficient to justify further development.

That doesn’t mean the team won’t try to come up with new candidates targeting this modality. But for now they will spend most of their time on interstitial lung disease drug ATYR1923, for which they have just identified a protein receptor. The program, like the rest of its pipeline, is based upon tRNA synthetase research by the Scripps’ Paul Schimmel.

As of market close Friday, aTyr was trading at $2.30 — a far cry from its IPO listing price of $14.


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