Beam Therapeutics Inc., a gene-editing firm, is laying off about 100 employees, or roughly 20% of its staff, in the latest sign of the challenges facing the biotech industry.
(Bloomberg) — Beam Therapeutics Inc., a gene-editing firm, is laying off about 100 employees, or roughly 20% of its staff, in the latest sign of the challenges facing the biotech industry.
The company said it would also pause development of a treatment for the hepatitis B virus, but would still prioritize programs to treat sickle cell disease and an inherited genetic disorder that causes early onset emphysema and liver disease.
Like a lot of biotech and health care companies, Beam’s fortunes were lifted by the Covid-19 pandemic as its stock price surged. But that boom has faded, with sales weakening and its shares down more than 50% this year.
In a statement, John Evans, Beam’s chief executive officer, attributed the cuts to “the challenging market environment.”
Many biotech companies have had to cut staff and pause developing new treatments to conserve cash. High interest rates have also pushed investors to avoid risky assets such as biotech firms that are often more volatile.
“We need to make the difficult decision to focus our resources on those clinical programs and research areas we believe have the highest potential for near-term value creation,” Evans said.
The company said the anticipated cost savings are expected to extend its revised operating plan into 2026.
In January of last year, Pfizer Inc. said it would pay as much as $1.35 billion over a four-year agreement to partner with Beam on developing drugs for rare genetic diseases.
That would be quite a boon, considering analysts only expect Beam to generate $75 million in revenue this year.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam uses a gene-editing technique called base editing to change individual letters of genetic code. The company says the approach can yield extremely precise modifications in the instructions for making cells and tissues.
Because it alters DNA in such a targeted way, Beam says base editing carries less risk of side effects than genome-editing approaches like Crispr. The company was founded by gene-editing pioneers David R. Liu, Feng Zhang and J. Keith Joung.
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