BenchSci trims headcount citing generative AI, economic conditions

BenchSci confirmed to BetaKit that it laid off 17 percent of its workforce.

Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) and biomedical startup BenchSci has reduced its headcount as the startup looks to adapt to the impact of generative AI in the field of drug discovery.

BenchSci announced the layoffs in a LinkedIn post on Monday, but did not disclose how many staff were let go as part of these layoffs, nor did it share what percentage of the company’s total workforce these layoffs represent. 

“We believe that generative AI will continue to reshape preclinical [R&D] and have a substantial positive impact on our customers.”

A BenchSci spokesperson has since confirmed to BetaKit that the startup laid off 70 team members, marking a 17 percent reduction in headcount.

In its LinkedIn post, BenchSci cited several reasons behind its workforce reduction, including “shifts in the economic environment, operational efficiencies, and adaptation to technological advancements,” specifically citing generative AI.

“We believe that generative AI will continue to reshape preclinical [research and development] and have a substantial positive impact on our customers,” BenchSci said in its LinkedIn post. “As we look towards our future, these changes will allow us to further our investment in generative AI and work toward making drug discovery more efficient and help bring new medicine to patients faster.”

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“As we continue our work to revolutionize preclinical drug discovery, this decision stems from shifts in our longer-term strategic direction and what we know will have the greatest impact on our customers—which includes furthering our investment in generative AI,” BenchSci co-founder and CEO Liran Belenzon said in a statement sent to BetaKit. “Parting ways with team members is extremely difficult, and we are committed to supporting them through this transition.”

The layoffs come roughly six months after BenchSci closed $95 million in Series D funding to expand its AI-powered drug-discovery platform. Using text and image-based machine learning models, BenchSci claims its software allows scientists to accelerate the pace and increase the success of research during the preclinical drug-development process.

BenchSci is not the only Canadian AI and biomedical startup to have reduced its headcount in recent months. In late November, Vancouver-based AbCellera laid off 63 employees, or 10 percent of its workforce. In a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said the layoffs would help it “focus its efforts toward the clinical development of new antibody medicines for patients.”

At the time of BenchSci’s Series D fundraise, Belenzon told BetaKit that in the 15 months between its $63-million Series C financing round and its Series D round, the startup had tripled its revenue and doubled its team size from 200 to 400.

UPDATE (01/08/2024): This story was updated with commentary from BenchSci’s CEO, as well as information regarding how many team members were let go.

Feature image courtesy BenchSci.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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