BenevolentAI names pharma vet Jörg Möller as its new CEO

Dr Jörg Möller
Jörg Möller/LinkedIn

BenevolentAI’s search for a new chief executive has concluded with the appointment of industry bigwig Dr Jörg Möller to the role, four months after Joanna Shields stepped down and as the company emerges from a restructuring drive.

The UK artificial intelligence specialist said in a statement that Möller is “an accomplished R&D leader and champion of the application of AI to drug discovery.”

Möller is best known for his 20-year career at Bayer, which culminated in him becoming head of R&D for the group’s pharmaceuticals division before he stepped down in 2020, and shortly afterwards he assumed the same role at Leo Pharma.

A change in Leo’s R&D strategy resulted in a sideways move to interim chief development officer, and he left the company by “mutual agreement” last year. He graduated as a doctor of medicine and holds a PhD from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

At Bayer, Möller initiated several drug discovery collaborations with AI platform companies, including partnerships with Exscientia and Recursion and, according to BenevolentAI, is a “strong advocate” of the technology’s ability to drive innovation.

He has long argued that AI and other digital technologies can simplify and speed up the discovery and development of new drugs for patients.

“Jörg is an outstanding leader with extensive experience across all stages of R&D,” said BenevolentAI’s chair, Dr François Nader. “With his track record of delivering growth through driving performance, I am confident that Jörg will leverage our proprietary and validated Benevolent Platform to deliver our patient-centric revenue-generating strategy.”

Möller’s predecessor Shields stood down last September after four years at the helm, a few months after the Amsterdam-listed company implemented a cost-cutting programme that resulted in the loss of around 180 jobs and a narrowing of its R&D around a few of its most promising projects.

She left the company a day after BenevolentAI announced an alliance with German group Merck, worth up to $594 million, to apply its AI platform to deliver small-molecule drugs across three programmes in oncology, neurology, and immunology.

The new CEO will now take responsibility for taking that partnership and BenevolentAI’s other pipeline candidates forward, including two AstraZeneca-partnered programmes in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

BenevolentAI’s in-house pipeline is led by ulcerative colitis candidate BEN-8744, a PDE10-targeting drug that is in early-stage clinical testing.