BenevolentAI cuts workforce, pipeline in strategic realignment
Published: May 25, 2023
By Tristan Manalac
Following a strategic review, British AI drug discovery company BenevolentAI announced a reorganization initiative Thursday aimed at optimizing its pipeline and technology platforms to reduce its expenditures and maximize value for stakeholders.
The strategic realignment will scale back R&D activities at its Bio Business Unit and trim its developmental pipeline down to two preclinical assets and a variety of earlier-stage molecules. BenevolentAI is also laying off approximately 180 employees as part of its reorganization.
Nicholas Keher, the company’s current chief financial officer, will also step down from his role “to pursue other business interests,” according to the news release. In the interim, Tom Holgate, senior vice president and group finance director, will assume Keher’s spot.
In total, these cost-cutting measures will allow BenevolentAI to save almost $56 million—nearly $40 million from the program and staff cuts and some $16 million in facilities and operating expenses — which will extend its runway through at least July 2025, without accounting for any new revenue stream.
Along with the pipeline trim, BenevolentAI will discontinue its work on BEN-2293, which was being developed for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. Last month, the company unveiled top-line Phase IIa results for BEN-2293 and showed that while the topical candidate met its primary endpoints of safety and tolerability, its efficacy signals were disappointing as it failed to ease itch and inflammation.
Dropping BEN-2293 leaves BenevolentAI with two preclinical candidates. The first, dubbed BEN-8744, is an investigational inhibitor of the PDE10 protein and is being trialed for ulcerative colitis. The candidate has best-in-class potential and is set to start Phase I assessments in the third quarter of 2023.
BenevolentAI’s second pre-clinical candidate is BEN-28010, which likewise has best-in-class potential and can penetrate the central nervous system to treat glioblastoma multiforme. The company expects to be ready to file an Investigational New Drug Application for the candidate by the fourth quarter of this year.
As part of the reorganization, BenevolentAI will also continue R&D activities on even earlier-stage assets across the neurodegenerative and immunological disease spaces, targeting diseases such as fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Beyond its drug development pipeline, BenevolentAI’s strategic realignment will also deepen its Tech Business Unit, which the company contends will position it as an AI leader in the biopharma industry.
These AI improvements will include a natural language biomedical querying system, which the company says will allow its industry partners to accelerate drug discoveries and improve their data analyses. BenevolentAI will also utilize generative AI and large language models to accelerate scientific discovery.