Ikena Oncology has initiated cash reduction measures including layoffs to funnel its resources into advancing its lead oncology assets IK-930 and IK-595.

The workforce reduction of approximately 35% of its staff will occur over Q1 this year. Furthermore, the US-based company has paused exploratory research and discovery to direct the funds towards clinical programmes, as per an 18 January press release.

Ikena reported cash reserves of approximately $175m as of 31 December 2023. The company has a market cap of 79.14m.

IK-930 is a selective Hippo pathway inhibitor that targets TEA domain transcription factor 1 (TEAD1). The drug is being investigated in a Phase I trial (NCT05228015) to evaluate its safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and preliminary antitumor activity in patients with solid tumours.

The initial data from the trial showed grade I-II treatment-related proteinuria in 3 out of 26 dose escalation patients. Other adverse events included low-grade nausea, fatigue, and diarrhoea. In light of the data, the company has focused on targeted monotherapy indications, such as epithelioid haemangioendothelioma (EHE) and mesothelioma, as per a 9 November 2023 press release. The clinical update for the Phase I trial is planned for H2 2024.

Another Ikena clinical asset includes IK-595, a MEK-RAF molecular glue that targets the RAS signalling pathway – responsible for cancer cell proliferation. The drug is currently in Phase I trial, with the initial cohort dosed in December 2023. The initial cohort has since cleared the safety evaluation window.

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The company is enrolling targeted RAS and RAF mutant cancer patients in the dose escalation cohort, where Ikena exploring multiple dosing schedules. The company is also planning backfill and expansion cohorts across multiple indications where IK-595 may have differentiated advantages, as per an 18 January press release.

Several pharmaceutical companies have announced layoffs in recent months amidst a difficult economic environment. In September 2023, NexImmune fired 53% of its workforce and paused the development of its three adoptive T cell therapies. In the same month, Kinnate Biopharma laid off 70% of its staff and paused three of its clinical programmes.