54gene CEO steps down 2 months after the company laid off 30% of its workforce
Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, co-founder and CEO of 54gene, a Nigerian health tech company has resigned from his position according to a statement seen by TechCabal. 54gene’s General Counsel, Teresia L. Bost, will take over as interim CEO. Dr. Ene-Obong will continue to support the company as Senior Advisor and remain on 54gene’s Board of Directors.
Per the official statement, Dr. Ene-Obong said, “Teresia and Delali bring decades of experience in building and scaling high-impact global pharma companies, and they also have deep insight into the workings of 54gene. I am excited to see them take the company to its next phase.”
It’s not clear why Ene-Obong is stepping down, but the company’s recent struggles are likely to be a contributing factor. After the recent layoff, there were allegations of financial impropriety leveled against Ene-Obong which weren’t proven.
This announcement comes barely one month after Ogochukwu Osifo, 54gene co-founder and vice president of engineering announced his departure from the company in a LinkedIn post. While no reason was given for the departure of Dr. Ene-Obong, Osifo explained in his post that he was leaving 54gene “to pursue other interests.” Osifo’s LinkedIn profile has been updated to include a new role as “Chief Executive Officer at Rayda”
54gene says it will now focus “on its core mission of African genomics research and equalizing precision medicine.” The company also says it plans to restructure its business across a number of departments and geographies and will conduct a second round of layoffs. 54gene had in August laid off 95 employees as revenue from Covid-19 testing dwindled.
Interest in health tech soared globally as Covid-19 hit driving investment into a sector that is relatively underfunded. For some of these firms, especially companies like 54gene, pandemic management measures like Covid-19 screening represented an easy source of revenue. 54gene partnered with government agencies to deliver these tests.
“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 with the objective of positioning the company to make contributions to precision medicine and drug discovery. This continues the meaningful work the company has invested in, whilst de-emphasising the clinical diagnostic business line at this time,” the statement read.
In September 2021, 54gene raised $25 million in a Series B round that brought the company’s total investment to over $45M since it was founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong in 2019. Investors in the company include Y Combinator, Adjuvant Capital, Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF), among others.
Teresia Bost, 54gene’s new leader joined the firm in 2021 as General Counsel, after two decades of working as a corporate lawyer for several pharmaceutical companies including Celgene and Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
Said Jenny Yip, Managing Partner of Adjuvant Capital and 54gene Board Chair, “Whilst we continue to work closely with Abasi, as he takes on a new role as Senior Advisor, we’re also excited to have Teresia Bost, in her role as Interim CEO, lead the company into its next phase.”