Targeted Genetics Cuts Workforce in Half in Bid to Survive Into August

Xconomy Seattle — 

Targeted Genetics, the Seattle-based developer of gene therapies, said today it is cutting more than half of its workforce in a bid to make its dwindling cash reserves last into August.

The company (NASDAQ: TGEN) said it will cut its staff down to just 10 to 15 employees by the end of the July, compared with 35 according to a regulatory filing updated on May 1. Targeted is also trying to settle its lease obligation on a facility in Bothell, WA, and is negotiating to “reduce or eliminate” its other facility costs. Along with those cost cuts, the company will continue to try to raise capital through licensing, partnering, or stock sales, but if none of that pans out it will shut down.

The company, which was facing the possibility of a shutdown as soon as the end of June, also tried today to gin up a little more enthusiasm for a very early-stage gene therapy program that has shown some promise for Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, a genetic retina-damaging condition that causes young people to gradually go blind. The Targeted Genetics approach has generated some news in the past—a study of three patients showed strong enough results to get published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2008—but today’s update was a minor one. Targeted’s collaborator, University College London, has been cleared to go ahead with an extension of the study that will enroll younger patients, and use higher doses.

Of course, Targeted may not be around long enough as a company to find out whether its drug helps those young people see better. It had just $3.9 million in cash left on March 31, according to its most recent quarterly report. The company’s continued effort “depends on our successfully raising additional funding,” said CEO Susan Robinson, in a statement.

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