Site closure, staff cuts: Arbutus reshuffles in Vancouver

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/ktsimage
GettyImages/ktsimage

Related tags: Rna, Hepatitis b

Arbutus Biopharma Corporation is cutting operations but says it remains committed to developing its messenger RNA drug delivery technology.

On February 7, the Canada-headquartered company announced plans to shut down the facility – located near Vancouver – and reduce global headcount by 31% in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing​.

Arbutus - which makes injectable therapies to treat the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – said it predicts employee termination benefits and relocation costs, and plant closure charges, will come to $5m (€4m).

“We have chosen to consolidate our business around Warminster, Pennsylvania, the centre of our HBV discovery activities, thereby maximising our focus on our mission to cure chronic HBV,” ​said CEO Mark Murray.

“Arbutus has a broad pipeline of HBV assets and a strong balance sheet and we are committed to leading the field to an HBV cure,” ​he added.

In the filing, the firm said it expects the reshuffle to result in “increased efficiency, a more flexible variable cost structure, and additional preservation of Arbutus’ cash reserves.”

The company did not expand on these details: “There is no additional info to report or share at this time,” ​said spokesperson David Schull.

LNP technology

Arbutus’ Lipid Nanoparticle (LNP) technology will “remain intact” ​despite the facility closure, said the firm.

The delivery technology enables RNA interference (RNAi) drugs to be captured in particles made of lipids – fats or oil – and delivered into the bloodstream.

According to Arbutus, LNPs are designed to remain in the bloodstream for long enough to gather at disease sites.

“Through a process called endocytosis, cells take up the LNPs which allow them to migrate into the cell. The LNPs then undergo an interaction within the cell and the RNAi trigger molecules are released, mediating RNAi,” ​said the firm.

In October last year, Arbutus announced​ plans to advance its clinical and preclinical HBV pipeline programmes following a $116m investment from Roivant Sciences.

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