BenevolentAI turns ruthless to conserve cash

Another day, another Spac disappointment, with news of restructuring at BenevolentAI following Apexigen’s all-stock takeover yesterday. But while Apexigen never really stood a chance as a listed entity, arriving on Nasdaq with modest cash, Benevolent was not so disadvantaged. It went public in Amsterdam last year with around $200m in the bank (albeit only enough to last around 18 months), cash flow from a broad research deal with Astrazeneca and big names on its board. Cost cutting felt inevitable after the failure of its lead internal candidate last month, but arguably this should have happened sooner; the financing climate in Europe is considerably worse than in the US, and Benevolent’s stock is thinly traded. The stock has lost 81% since the Spac merger closed, with the group now worth just €270m ($290m). The shakeup, which includes the exit of the company’s chief finance officer, will see up to 180 staff cut, helping cash last until at least July 2025. Internal projects have been culled and earmarked for licensing out, while its AI drug discovery platform is another potential revenue generator. Plenty of biopharma groups have struggled with the mixed developer-platform business model, and Benevolent too has yet to make it work.

Benevolent AI's "prioritised" internal pipeline
Project Description  Status
BEN-8744 PDE10 inhibitor for ulcerative colitis To enter ph1 in Q3 2023
BEN-28010 CHK1 inhibitor for glioblastoma multiforme IND-ready by Q4 2023
The group has earlier-stage assets in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and fibrosis. Source: company statement.

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