Co-founder and chief executive officer, Abasi Ene-Obong (Dr) has stepped down from his role as CEO of African genomics, 54gene. According to a statement shared with Technext, the company announced that Teresia L. Bost, 54gene’s General Counsel will assume the role of interim CEO role.
The transition is with an immediate effect. She will be supported by the company’s COO, Delali Attipoe. Meanwhile, Dr Ene-Obong will continue to support the company in the role of Senior Advisor and retain his position on the 54gene Board of Directors.
This follows the resignation of the company’s co-founder and VP of Engineering, Ogochukwu Francis Osifo just a month for unknown reasons.
It is yet unclear exactly why the CEO is stepping down. But, we know that the company may be struggling to retain its staff force.
Dr Ene-Obong’s resignation is coming two months after 54gene laid off 95 employees in August. According to Techcrunch, the layoffs affected employees, mostly contract staff (in labs and sales departments) recruited to work in 54gene’s COVID business line launched in 2020 to complement its flagship product: a biobank of the African genome.
Recall that at that time, allegations of financial impropriety were levelled against him and his executives from a group of employees. But such claims are still unconfirmed.
But a statement by 54gene’s board chairperson and Managing Partner at Adjuvant Capital, Jenny Yip indicates that the board is grateful to the former CEO for being “a champion of major strides made in the company”.
“We thank Dr Ene-Obong for shining a light on the need to bring novel drugs to the world based on insights drawn from the healthcare and research ecosystem in Africa. His vision and innovation has positioned 54gene to make a long-term impact on people around the world, and his tenure as CEO has seen him record significant strides in Africa’s, and the global life sciences sector”, he said.
On his part, the outgoing CEO, Dr Abasi Ene-Obong expressed gratitude to the board and said that he will continue to work with the company as it embarks on a new phase:
“I have always believed that the scale of genetic diversity in Africa and other highly diverse populations will materially impact our understanding of biology and lead to better medicines and interventions for the global population, and I am proud of what has been achieved at 54gene. I will continue to support the company and the scientific ecosystem, particularly the African genomics ecosystem”, he says.
Going forward, interim CEO, Teresia Bost will lead the company into its next phase. She brings with her a wealth of over 20 years of extensive knowledge and experience in leading global teams across pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare industries and has been responsible for strategic support of securities matters, corporate governance and finance matters in previous roles.
Chairperson Yip expressed the board’s confidence and assurance of support: “We are confident that she will continue to build upon 54gene’s impressive record of carving the way for African genomics on the global stage and continuing to build a truly unique biobank that will generate insights to shape global healthcare challenges”, she said.
COO, Delali Attipoe also has more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical sector ranging from logistics and supply chain management to commercial marketing and managed care, including the African market.
These will be done with the objective of positioning the company to make contributions to precision medicine and drug discovery. The board believes that the combination of both leaders will bring investors the confidence the company needs to survive.
“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 ”, Former CEO, Ene-Obong said.
54gene is a health technology company that has built a rich, diverse data resource combined with well-phenotyped clinical data derived from Africans to unlock scientific discoveries as well as improve healthcare outcomes within Africa and the global community.
Since its launch, the company has undertaken the audacious task of cataloguing Africa’s rich population creating a world-class genomics data repository and addressing the fact that Africa’s genomics data currently makes up less than 3% of the global genomics data.
The company has led the way in genomics and data science innovations, securing a number of notable partnerships with global leaders in biopharma, corporate and global organizations.
In order to build further resilience in its operations and focus its resources on its core mission of African genomics research and equalizing precision medicine, the company is restructuring across a number of departments and geographies, which will lead to a reduction in headcount.
This continues the meaningful work the company has invested in, whilst de-emphasising the clinical diagnostic business line at this time.
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