Neoleukin Therapeutics to axe 70% of workforce

March 13, 2023

Seattle-based biopharma company Neoleukin Therapeutics announced this week that it's reducing its workforce by approximately 70%, and will look to strategic alternatives such as a sale, merger or divestiture of assets to keep itself afloat.

Neoleukin has focused on using de novo protein design technology to develop next generation immunotherapies for cancer, inflammation and autoimmunity. The therapies developed resemble their endgenous protein counterparts in structure, but not in sequence. 

The company’s lead program, NL-201, is the first computationally-designed de novo protein drug, and a potential revolutionary IL-2/IL-15 cancer drug. Despite its promise, Neoleukin's chairman of the board Todd Simpson said the layoffs are necessary, "based on the anticipated time and investment necessary to further develop the technology and potential product candidates in this challenging capital markets environment, we believe that it is appropriate to pursue other strategic options." 

It has been a tough season for biopharma, with multiple companies announcing layoffs or abandoning programs to extend cash runway. Just in the last few weeks, MorphoSys and Apexigen announced layoffs and refocusing. As recently as last Friday, San Francisco-based Olema Oncology, a biopharma focusing on targeted therapies for women’s cancers, revealed that it would be cutting its workforce by 25% in an attempt to prioritize the development of its lead asset.