After layoffs and R&D pivot, cash-strapped VBL sells gene therapy manufacturing plant

When VBL Therapeutics’ viral cancer prospect flunked a phase 3 trial and sent investors sprinting last summer, the company was quick to take the budget ax to its pipeline, workforce and more. Now, on the heels of a 35% staff reduction and the liquidation of VBL’s lead drug candidate, the Israeli biotech is pawning off a manufacturing plant.

VBL has struck a deal with an unnamed buyer to sell its Modiin, Israel, manufacturing plant and "certain related assets" for $7.1 million in cash. Down the line, VBL has the right to sell equipment not covered by the deal for additional funds, the company said in a release. The sale is expected to go through in early March.

The plant is designed to produce gene therapies, a VBL spokesperson said.

The facility sale marks the latest casualty of an internal strategic review unveiled in mid-August, which left 14 VBL staffers without jobs earlier that same month. In addition, three of the company’s board members—Ron Cohen, Bennett Shapiro and Alison Finger—resigned. The exodus followed the blowout of VBL’s adenovirus 5 therapy ofra-vec—also known as VB-111—in a phase 3 study in ovarian cancer. As part of VBL’s business overhaul, the biotech announced last summer it was “ceasing development of ofra-vec in all indications.”

Back in July, when VBL announced ofra-vec’s phase 3 fail, investors headed for the exit, cratering the company’s already-low share price below 50 cents. Adding to VBL’s misfortunes, the company received a notice of violation at Nasdaq in September because its share price was trading below $1.

As of Thursday morning, VBL shares were trading at about 15 cents.