The founder and chief executive officer of 54gene, Abasi Ene-Obong has resigned from office. The reason for his departure is still unclear at the moment, but there have been allegations of financial impropriety directed against him which have not been verified.
However, the former CEO will remain with 54gene as a Board Advisor.
- 54gene is a biotech startup that seeks to bridge the data gap in Africa’s genomics database which is currently at 3%. The startup conducts research, and clinical tests and partners with pharmaceuticals to develop and test drugs.
- 54gene has raised a total of $44.7M in funding over 9 rounds from Adjuvant Capital, Y Combinator and Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF).
Zoom in on the cuts
The resignation is not all that there is. The company said it was looking forward to the second wave of job cuts. 54gene has in the last two months laid off 30% of its team making up 95 individuals. The sales and labs departments were the worst hit as some of their roles became redundant after the COVID pandemic.
Covid had increased the number of samples to be tested thus leading to the need for additional workers. But as Covid receded, testing was drastically reduced leaving workers without tasks, hence the cut.
Now, the company warns of even more layoffs saying it is restructuring certain divisions.
54gene’s focus will remain on drug development through further partnerships with pharmaceuticals.
“Going forward, the primary focus will be on the unique genomic research the company has started by further leveraging its genomic datasets derived from 54gene’s state-of-the-art biobank, that currently houses over 130,000 unique patient samples and corresponding genomic data, all to position the company to make contributions to precision medicine and drug discovery.
This continues the purposeful work the company has invested in while reducing the focus on the clinical diagnostic business line at the time,” the company stated.
Meet the interim CEO
Teresa Bost, who will take on the role of acting CEO, has served as general counsel at 54gene with experience leading global legal teams across the pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare industries including Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Quartet Health and Celgene.
Previously she oversaw the legal, compliance, and cybersecurity functions at 54gene by creating effective legal infrastructures aligned with the company’s code of ethics, strategic objectives, and application processes.