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Sean McClain, Absci founder and CEO. (Absci Photo)

Vancouver, Wash.-based drug design and development company Absci laid off employees Tuesday, a little more than a year after going public.

“The macro-economic conditions of the last few months prompted us to engage in a comprehensive business analysis to focus the company on those activities that will create the greatest value,” said CEO and founder Sean McClain in a blog post.

A company spokesperson declined to specify which areas were trimmed or how many people were let go. The Oregonian reported that the total was about 40 employees.

McClain started Absci in a basement lab in Portland, Ore., 13 years ago and cut the ribbon on a new 77,400 square-foot headquarters in November. At the time, the company had 200 employees. It also opened a new AI research lab in New York City this April.

Other Washington state biotech companies that laid employees amid the economic downturn include Silverback Therapeutics, which shed staff and terminated R&D operations after failure of a clinical trial. Adaptive Biotechnologies laid off about 100 people in March, also citing “market conditions.”

Biotech stock values soared during the pandemic but hit a bear market this year. In June, a key biotech index fund, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI), was down about 60% from its high in February 2021.

According to Fierce Biotech’s layoff tracker, 16 biotech companies nationally laid off employees this June and July.

Seattle-area tech startups including Shelf Engine, Convoy, Flyhomes, Rad Power Bikes, 98point6, and Esper all had rounds of layoffs this year.

Absci’s stock value reached a high of $28.48 a week after its IPO and has since declined more than 80%. Its market capitalization is less than $400 million.

The company earlier reported that it had $226 million in cash and cash equivalents on March 31, compared to $252.6 million on December 31, 2021. That was enough cash to fuel operations through the end of 2024, the company said at the time.

Absci uses in silico models to optimize designs of protein therapeutics, and custom-engineered E. coli strains to manufacture them and screen them for optimal activity. Its drug company partners include Merck, Xyphos Biotechnology and EQRx.

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