Bind Therapeutics Sheds Employees, Considers New Capital or Deals

Xconomy Boston — 

Bind Therapeutics, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech that hired a Bristol-Myers Squibb oncology researcher as its chief scientific officer in December, is laying off 38 percent of its workforce this month to limit the amount of cash it burns through, the company said in a prepared statement.

Bind (NASDAQ: BIND) expects it will have 61 employees after trimming its staff. By this fall, the company said it will have lowered its cash burn rate to $6 million per quarter.

Part of the change is based on a shift in Bind’s research and development strategy. Along with the layoffs, Bind announced that it is going to seek a larger company to partner with to help develop its lead compound, called Bind-014, a nanoparticle therapeutic that targets a prostate-specific membrane antigen. Bind calls its nanoparticle therapeutics, meant to help distribute a drug more efficiently throughout the body, Accurins.

The lead therapeutic contains docetaxel, a highly toxic chemotherapy drug. With the layoffs, Bind released limited preliminary results from a Phase 2 trial in advanced non-small cell lung cancer of squamous histology, noting that the drug demonstrated a 70 percent six-week disease control rate for its target population. (Bind was aiming for 65 percent.)

The company said it is working with an unnamed investment bank to explore “strategic alternatives,” including possibly collaborating with another company on Bind-014 for non-small cell lung cancer or something else, raising more money, or possibly selling some of its assets. The company has one kinase inhibitor Accurin, AZD2811, in Phase 1 trials through a collaboration with AstraZeneca, a second deal with Pfizer, and other collaborations with Dublin, OH-based Macrophage Therapeutics, New York-based Synergy Pharmaceuticals, and Japanese drug developer PeptiDream.

In addition to data on Bind-014 for non-small cell lung cancer, Bind also tested the drug in cervical and head and neck cancers, though it said it is halting further enrollment in those trials.

Bind named Jonathan Yingling its new chief scientific officer in December. Yingling had been overseeing Bristol-Myers Squibb’s oncology research portfolio, and spent 13 years at Eli Lilly before that.

Bind got off to a promising start. Its technology was co-developed by MIT professor Robert Langer and Omid Farokhzad, a professor at Harvard Medical School. It easily raised capital through grants and from top venture capital investors, including Polaris Partners and Flagship Ventures.

Bind raised $70.5 million in an initial public offering in late 2013, and things started turning after that. While Bind had announced in January 2013 it would collaborate with Amgen in a deal that could total $180 million in potential payments, Bind only ever received $5 million of that upfront, according to a regulatory filing. (At the time, Bind said it could receive as much as $46.5 million upfront.)

In June 2014, the deal with Amgen was all but off.

In addition to collaborations, several new products are being developed internally, Yingling said in today’s statement.