InVivo Therapeutics to ax hydrogel drug delivery program, cutting jobs

InVivo Therapeutics ($NVIV) announced June 19 that it is terminating its preclinical hydrogel drug delivery program as the company focuses on its investigational devices for spinal cord injury, the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold and the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold Plus Stem Cells. The 50-person company will cut 14 employees for annual savings of $3 million, allowing the company to fund itself through March 2016, according to the release. 

Among those cut is chief technology officer Brian Hess, who will receive a severance of about $53,000, according to an SEC filing.

"Going forward, all of the company's resources and efforts will be centered on the development of the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold for acute SCI (spinal cord injury) and Scaffolds Plus Stem Cells for the treatment of chronic SCI," CEO Mark Perrin said in a statement. "This focus will allow InVivo to advance the spinal cord injury programs without distraction and in a more financially efficient manner. Developing effective spinal cord injury treatments is a challenging task, and our renewed focus maximizes the potential for patients and shareholders to benefit from the major advancements that have been and continue to be made by the InVivo team."

Hydrogels are hydrophilic polymer chains that easily absorb water. Hydrogels are being heavily researched by biotechs for their potential drug delivery applications because they exhibit properties similar to human tissue.

InVivo said it will continue to research the use of hydrogels "as part of an expanded biomaterials development program for the delivery of stem cells." This appears to be a promising arena. University of Rochester researchers recently announced that by encasing stem cells in hydrogel they improved the cells' ability to regenerate bone issue. 

In April the company announced that it has begun shipping its investigative Neuro-Spinal Scaffold, a sign that the device's first human clinical trial is commencing. The device has a humanitarian device exemption from the FDA because it treats a rare condition: "complete spinal cord injury (no motor or sensory function) that does not involve penetrating injury or complete severing of the spinal cord," according to a 2013 release.

The company also announced that former interim CFO Steven F. McAllister is now holding the position indefinitely. 

InVivo posted a net loss of $38.7 million in 2013. It does not have the luxury of spending money on research that isn't near commercialization.

- read the release
- read the SEC filing