Health/Life Sciences

Adaptive Biotechnologies lays off about 100 individuals, 12% of headcount, to ‘streamline our workforce’

Chad Robins, left, is co-founder and CEO of Adaptive Biotechnologies, which he co-founded with his brother, Harlan Robins, right, the company’s chief scientific officer. (Adaptive Biotechnologies Photo)

Adaptive Biotechnologies is laying off 12% of its workforce, or about 100 employees, GeekWire has learned.  

“We have made the hard decision to streamline our workforce,” a spokesperson told GeekWire. “Given current market conditions affecting Adaptive and the biotech industry more broadly, we needed to ensure we had enough flexibility to meet our medium- to long-terms goals.”

The company had 858 full-time employees at the end of 2021, according to its annual filing with the SEC.

Adaptive, which develops technology to assess the immune response, grew fast during the pandemic. The company doubled its workforce and signed up new partnerships with vaccine companies to help analyze and develop COVID-19 vaccines. Adaptive also rapidly developed and marketed a T-cell based COVID-19 test, increased sales of its kits to detect “minimal residual disease” in blood cancers, and has built up other biopharma partnerships.

The layoffs also come less than six months after Adaptive cut the ribbon on a new headquarters in Seattle.

But the company’s shares have declined about 80% from a peak in January 2021.

Adaptive’s layoffs come as a hot biotech IPO market during 2021 cools down and biotech stock values decline. One key biotech index fund, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI), is down about 50% from February 2021.

Some other biotech companies have also been trimming staff, including Roche’s Genentech and Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle-area Zymeworks, which is laying off 25% of its workforce.

Adaptive is undergoing a reorganization to focus on two key business areas, “minimal residual disease (MRD) and immune medicine,” according to the spokesperson. “As part of this process, we are deprioritizing projects and programs that are no longer aligned with the goals of the two business areas,” she added.

The company’s revenue for 2021 was $154.3 million, a 57% increase from 2020, according to its most recent earnings report. Net loss came in at $207.3 million, up from $146.2 million in 2020.

Fourth quarter revenue was $37.9 million, up 26% from the year-ago period. Net loss last quarter was $61.4 million, up from $44.6 million. At the end of last year, the company had $570.2 million available in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities.

CEO Chad Robins launched the company in 2009 with his brother, chief scientific officer Harlan Robins, and they took the company public in 2019. The company was spun out of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Chad previously served as head of computational biology.

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, Adaptive released a message that Chad Robins had sent to employees earlier in the day. “Ensuring we have the capital and the resources to fuel our growth while navigating turbulent market conditions has resulted in the need to make hard choices,” said Robins. After a comprehensive review, “it became clear that we had to cut operating expenses, deprioritize certain projects and programs, and make significant adjustments to expenditures on capital projects.”

Adaptive’s long-time CFO Chad Cohen stepped down in January. The company will be making an announcement Wednesday morning about a replacement, “a significant part of our realignment,” said the spokesperson.

“We are sad to being parting ways with our team members but believe these changes will set us up for success and growth,” the spokesperson added. “Our team is doing everything possible to support their transition, including a comprehensive exit package. The Seattle biotech market is intimate and our executives and remaining employees will be doing everything they can to help our departing colleagues network.”

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