AbbVie, Lilly-backed Capsida cuts staff months after signing Big Pharma deals

AbbVie, Lilly-backed Capsida cuts staff months after signing Big Pharma deals

AAV-focused gene therapy maker Capsida Biotherapeutics is laying off staff, the company confirmed to Fierce Biotech. The cuts could impact as much as 25% of the team, a source familiar with the decision said.

The company declined to confirm the size of the layoffs but CEO Peter Anastasiou said in a statement to Fierce Biotech Friday that the biotech was “moving two internal programs into the development phase and as a result, have reshaped the organization accordingly.”

“We remain focused on novel research while maximizing the efficiency of our resources in order to get our therapies to the patients who so desperately need them as quickly as possible,” Anastasiou continued.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for the employees shown the door, with the biotech evidently looking to conserve resources even in light of positive business development moves. Capsida said in February that AbbVie would be expanding a previous collaboration announced in 2021 when Capsida launched. AbbVie put up $90 million in combined upfront cash and equity, plus $530 million in biobucks, in exchange for up to three central nervous system targets from Capsida. The new deal tacked on $70 million in new upfront cash with almost $600 million in biobucks available.

AbbVie’s expansion came one month after Lilly dipped its toe into Capsida’s gene therapy capsid-making tech. That deal included $55 million in upfront cash with $685 million in biobucks possible. The deal combines Capsida’s capsids with Lilly-bought Prevail’s therapeutic cargo to develop new CNS treatments.

Capsida’s internal work remains relatively under wraps, with two programs underway, one of which remains undisclosed. The other, CAP-002, is a treatment for genetic epilepsy, caused by mutations of syntaxin-binding protein 1. STXBP1 Foundation, a patient advocacy group, says one in 30,000 people are affected by the disease. Capsida says that CAP-002 is designed to replace the protein in the brain after one IV infusion. The biotech reported preclinical data in mice last month showing that dose-dependent improvements in motor function and cognition were seen at least a year after treatment.

Capsida’s launch was financed by Versant Ventures and Westlake Village BioPartners, who together committed $50 million in series A capital. But the company is running behind schedule, originally expecting to be in clinical trials last year. Capsida has not updated its clinical timeline, nor announced a new private financing round since debuting.

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