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Generation bio cuts 40% of staff in blow for non-viral gene therapy sector

US-based Generation Bio is cutting its workforce by 40%, becoming the latest company to announce lay-offs to save money this year. 

The restructuring includes the departure of key personnel, with medical chief Douglass Kerr and development leader Tracy Zimmerman among those leaving. 

The 29 November announcement adds to a series of setbacks in the field, with the cell therapy startup NexImmune reducing its workforce by over half this year, halting the development of its three adoptive T cell therapies. Generation anticipates that the downsizing and streamlining of its research and development focus will result in a cost-saving of $120m over the next three years, as outlined in a 27 November SEC filing.  

In April, Takeda announced that it was moving away from the adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapies sector amidst difficulties associated with gene therapy research development at the preclinical stage, highlighting that it is unlikely that many current AAV programmes will reach late-stage trials. 

Generation will continue to develop immune cell programs with Moderna, to expand their non-viral genetic medicines pipelines in a deal that was announced in March. The partnership aimed to use Generation’s stealth cell-targeted lipid nanoparticle (ctLNP) delivery system to develop new lipid nanoparticles. The companies will continue to develop Moderna’s immune-quiet DNA (iqDNA) for its haemophilia A programme. 

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Generation was formed in 2016 and went public in 2020, with a gene therapy pipeline primarily centred around liver and eye disease targets. In 2021, the company faced a setback when promising mouse data with its haemophilia programme failed to translate to nonhuman primate models, halving the company’s shares. Last month, the company announced it would pivot to developing a new approach called immune-quiet DNA (iqDNA), an optimised version of its closed-ended DNA that has been discontinued. The company plans to use iqDNA constructs for its haemophilia A program, which it will now focus on following the reorganisation, along with the liver diseases in collaboration with Moderna.  

In the announcement accompanying the reorganisation, Generation Bio CEO Geoff McDonough said: “To allow us to reach critical development milestones for these platforms under current market conditions, we are taking the difficult but necessary steps to align our investments with our strategy and to extend our cash runway.” 

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