BenevolentAI, part of a recent wave of companies to emerge with plans to use high-powered computing tools to discover drugs. said Thursday it will cut jobs and reorganize its pipeline to preserve cash.
The London-based biotechnology company said it will lay off up to 180 employees and reduce spending to extend its cash runway to July 2025, and reorganize its drug portfolio to focus on its most advanced prospects.
In addition, the biotech’s Chief Financial Officer, Nicholas Keher, has resigned to pursue other opportunities. Tom Holgate, the company’s senior vice president and group finance director, will step in as interim CFO.
BenevolentAI will now prioritize experimental medicines meant to treat the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis and a type of fast-growing brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. It will also continue early work on drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and fibrosis. The company will halt work on one of its most advanced drug candidates, a treatment for atopic dermatitis, following mixed Phase 2 results.
The company expects the restructuring will free up 45 million pounds, or about $55 million, of net cash.
BenevolentAI is one of several biotechs focused on computer-aided drug discovery to go public in recent years as the approach has grown in popularity. The company went public in Europe by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, at a valuation of about $1.7 billion two years ago. Similar companies such as Recursion Pharmaceuticals and Exiscentia have also raised large sums through initial public offerings in the U.S. But BenovolentAI’s shares have lost most of their value since, as have the stocks of Exiscentia and Recursion.
Their struggles aren’t unique among biotechs. Drug developers have been forced to tighten their belts since 2022 amid a public market downturn that’s made fundraising more difficult. Dozens of companies have resorted to job cuts to preserve their cash. Biotechs had laid off about 3,200 employees in the first three months of this year alone, according to BioPharma Dive tally.
BenevolentAI says it plans to pursue partnerships to help boost revenue as well.
“Our new strategic direction ensures we maximize our portfolio and leverage the knowledge and expertise we have built up in recent years to meet this moment of opportunity for AI in biopharma,” said BenevolentAI’s CEO Joanna Shields in a statement.