October 27, 2022

CEO Of African Genomics Startup 54gene Steps Down Amid Reduced Covid Testing

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, the co-founder of African genomics company 54gene, has officially stepped down as chief executive officer. 

54 Gene, founded in 2019 by Ene-Obong, works to address the gap in the genomics market. Despite being more genetically diverse, Africans currently make up less than 3% of genetic material used in pharmaceutical research, which is why 54 Gene’s work is incredibly important in bridging that gap.

Ene-Obong will continue his duties as a co-founder while transitioning into a new role as a senior advisor. The platform has hired General Counsel Teresia Bost as interim CEO in the meantime. 

“Abasi has decided to step down as the CEO but will continue to support the company in its go-forward plans such as strategic partnerships and fundraising,” said 54Gene. 

“We cannot comment on what other new interests he will pursue, if any, but we wish him well and still consider him a key team member.” 

Two months after 54Gene laid off 30% of its staff, the announcement marks a significant transition for the company. During this time, the organization was forced to make unprecedented adjustments to staff numbers to remain in the competitive market.

54Gene’s primary source of income includes co-creating pharmaceutical drugs for companies. However, the length of the process, which can span from years to a decade, has made it difficult for the business to have consistent revenue.  

At the height of the pandemic, the organization seized the opportunity to earn more money by transforming its lab into a COVID testing center. But, as Covid cases reduced and fewer people carried out tests, many of the staff 54Gene recruited had to be let go. 

“I am proud of what has been achieved at 54gene. I’d like to thank the 54gene Board for their support over the years and the many talented scientists and technology professionals I have had the pleasure to work with during my time at the company,” said Ene-Obong in a statement. 

As the company moves on from its strenuous past, Ene-Obong resignation marks a new era for 54Gene. It is not clear exactly why Ene-Obong has decided to step down from his role, but there is no denying massive changes are currently taking place within the organization. 

“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 54 gene. I am excited to see them take the company to its next phase.” 

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a tech reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.