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Alaunos Therapeutics Laying Off 60 Percent of its Workforce, Exploring Strategic Alternatives

NEW YORK – With sufficient cash to fund operations until the end of this year, Alaunos Therapeutics on Monday said it will wind down the Phase I/II trial of its autologous T-cell therapy and reduce its workforce by approximately 60 percent to refocus on its T-cell receptor (TCR) discovery platform.

In reporting its second quarter 2023 financial performance, Houston-based Alaunos said it is considering strategic alternatives for the firm as a whole including acquisition, merger, reverse merger, sale of assets, strategic partnerships, capital raises, or other transactions. It has brought on Cantor Fitzgerald as a strategic adviser for this process.

The firm was studying its TCR-T cell therapy in a Phase I/II trial in patients with solid tumors harboring KRAS, TP53, or EGFR mutations. Even though interim results from this study showed an 83 percent disease control rate among six evaluable patients who received the treatment, Alaunos will stop developing this treatment.

With a paired down pipeline and workforce, Alaunos will now prioritize inking partnerships that will allow it to advance the hunTR (human neoantigen T-cell receptor) platform that identifies TCRs targeting driver mutations. The company will retain employees involved in researching and developing the platform.

"After a review of the funding needs of our TCR-T Library Phase I/II trial and the current financial markets, the board of directors has made the difficult decision to limit further drug development under our clinical trial and to focus on our promising hunTR TCR discovery platform as we explore all strategic alternatives," Alaunos CEO Kevin Boyle said in a statement.

This is not the first time Alaunos has undergone a reorganization. In January 2022, Alaunos, previously named Ziopharm Oncology, restructured to focus more narrowly on TCR therapies, laid off 50 percent of its workforce, and opened an in-house TCR-T cell therapy manufacturing facility. In November, the firm raised $15.7 million in a public offering of common stock.

As of June 30, the company said it had $18.3 million in cash balances, sufficient to fund operations into Q4 of this year, after implementing the strategic changes to its business. Alaunos spent $5.2 million on R&D in Q2, a decrease of 13 percent from $5.9 million in the year-ago period. Its general and administrative expenses declined 11 percent to $3.0 million in Q2 compared to $3.4 million for the second quarter of 2022. In Q2 2023, the firm recorded a net loss of $8.8 million, or $.04 per share, compared to net loss of $9.9 million, or $.05 per share, in Q2 2022.