54gene, the Washington-based Nigerian genomic company, has carried out another round of layoffs. This time, according to two sources close to the event, about 10 employees were affected, representing 25% of its already lean workforce. Per our source, the company now has less than 30 people working across its functions.
54gene, in an email responding to TechCabal’s enquiry, confirmed the new layoffs. Part of the email reads: “54gene’s new leadership is focused on prioritising the company’s core mission and positioning the company for future success, and that means certain roles were redefined or eliminated in recent months.”
54gene began 2022 with over 300 staffers, but by the end of the year, its headcount had dropped to just 39 people, owing to an almost dried-out runway. This crunch led to a down round investment that marked down the company’s valuation from $175 million to $50 million, and the exit of its co-founder and CEO, Abasi Ene-Obong, last October. The board of the company installed the company’s then general counsel, Teresia Bost, as interim CEO. Last week, the company announced a complete overhaul of its management as it looks to raise additional funding. Bost has moved into an advisory role, and Ron Chiarello, a San Francisco-based serial entrepreneur, is now the CEO.
According to one source who spoke to TechCabal, the entire marketing, sales, and compliance departments have been disbanded, and their roles are now shuffled amongst the remaining employees and contracted external agencies. The company has maintained that its primary focus will be on genomic research, which it initially started with. However, a source claimed that there are currently only six people manning this core offering. 54gene’s genomic research has three arms: sequencing, biobank, and genotyping—meaning two people are working in each sector.
Following the layoffs, it is evident that the company needs more hands in its focal area, “else fatigue might force employees to quit without being laid off,” said another source familiar with the company’s situation. The company seems to be in tune with this, as parts of its email confirmed that going forward, “our hiring will align to our core mission.”
The company also claims that obligations to the affected employees were fulfilled.