Editas lays off 60, stops work on cancer

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Editas Medicine Inc. is laying off 20% of its workforce — about 60 people — as it cuts drug programs geared toward retinal diseases and solid tumors.

The Cambridge gene-editing company (Nasdaq: EDIT) now exclusively focuses its clinical-stage programs on blood-disorder drugs, specifically treatments for severe sickle cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia. Editas will also retain an early-stage research team for new in vivo gene therapies.

Editas Medicine Inc. is cutting off 20% of its personnel, or approximately 60 workers, as it reduces therapeutic projects for retinal illnesses and solid tumors.

The Cambridge gene-editing business (Nasdaq: EDIT) is now solely focused on blood-disorder medications, notably therapies for severe sickle cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia. In addition, Editas will retain its early-stage research team for innovative in vivo gene therapies.
The cuts mostly affect the teams working on the medications that have been discontinued: one for the eye illness Leber Congenital Amaurosis 10, another for retinitis pigmentosa, and a third for solid tumors.

Despite discontinuing those treatments, Editas may still license them out, and the business says it is looking for collaborations to further research them.

Mark Shearman, Editas’ chief scientific officer, is among those laid go. According to Editas spokeswoman Cristi Barnett, he came to the company with a speciality and expertise in in vivo ocular treatments, which will no longer be applicable with the closure of the retinal illness initiatives. Shearman is scheduled to leave at the end of March.

Shearman is the latest in a long line of executives to quit Editas in recent years. The company has lost a chief medical officer, one chief financial officer, another chief scientific officer, a chief technology officer, and three CEOs since 2018. Gilmore O’Neill, the company’s current CEO, took over in June of last year, following the 16-month term of his predecessor, Biogen Inc. (Nasdaq: BIIB) veteran James Mullen.

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