Rubius to lay off about 70 R.I. employees, considering sale of Smithfield facility

Updated at 4:25 p.m.

RUBIUS THERAPEUTICS plans to lay off 75% of its workforce, including around 70 employees in Rhode Island, and is considering the sale of its Smithfield manufacturing facility, the company announced on Tuesday. / COURTESY RUBIUS THERAPEUTICS

SMITHFIELD – Rubius Therapeutics plans to lay off 75% of its workforce, including about 70 of its 101 employees in Rhode Island, and is “exploring the sale of its manufacturing facility” in the town, the biotech company announced on Tuesday morning.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company is “in active discussions with several companies via a competitive bidding process about the potential sale of the site” at 100 Technology Way in Smithfield, said Lori Murray, chief corporate affairs officer at Rubius, and is set to lay off about 160 employees across its Smithfield and Cambridge locations as it shifts its research focus following a series of financial hits.

Rubius, which reported 269 employees at the beginning of the year, focuses on biologically engineering red blood cells to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The layoffs will mostly impact employees in clinical development, manufacturing and general and administrative roles, the company stated.

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The company established the Smithfield location after approval for up to $9 million in tax credits and incentives from R.I. Commerce Corp in 2018.

THE CAMBRIDGE, MASS.-based Rubius Therapeutics is “in active discussions with several companies via a competitive bidding process about the potential sale of the site” at 100 Technology Way in Smithfield, said Lori Murray, chief corporate affairs officer at Rubius Tuesday.

Over the years, Rubius has been touted by local leaders of the biotech industry as a success, an example of an innovative company entering Rhode Island from the biotech hotbed of the Boston area.

In fact, an application for the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge submitted by institutions in the southern New England region earlier this year cited Rubius as an example of the economic ripple effects the biotech sector could have on the area.

The BioConnects New England coalition was a finalist for the challenge but ultimately was not awarded a grant.

Rubius announced the plan Tuesday morning through a statement and webcast, where it detailed that it will discontinue its phase 1 clinical trials for two advanced solid tumor treatments, RTX-240 and RTX-224, as it turns it focus to its next generation cell conjugation platform.

This platform is expected to show “greater efficacy, a similar safety profile … and a significant reduction in overall cost structure,” the company stated.

Patients participating in trials will continue their doses “until disease progression or discontinuation,” Rubius said. More than 80 patients have participated in clinical trials.

In August, the company announced a $44.2 million loss for Q2, and a $96.7 million net loss for the first half of 2022. Rubius also experienced a $196.5 loss in 2021, and a $167.7 million loss in 2020.

CEO and President Dr. Pablo J. Cagnoni presented an optimistic view of the company’s research despite the losses, stating that the company has “demonstrated that engineered red blood cells can be manufactured at scale, safely administered and activate a patient’s immune system, resulting in clinical benefit in certain cancer patients, including evidence of tumor shrinkage and prolonged stable disease” in certain tumors.

Rubius will continue its technical development, preclinical oncology and autoimmunity research work, the company stated.

(Updated: Number of expected layoffs updated to 160 in second paragraph)

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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