54gene

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54gene
IndustryHealth
FoundersDr. Abasi Ene-Obong
Headquarters
Lagos
,
Nigeria
Number of locations
Washington DC
Websitewww.54gene.com

Editor: Charissa Cassels

54gene is an African genomics research, services and development company that was launched in January 2019 to address the gap in the African genomics market.

The company aims to improve the development, availability and efficacy of medical products that will benefit Africans and was founded by Dr Abasi Ene-Obong[1], it is headquartered in Washington DC and has a biobank in Lagos, Nigeria.[2]

The company is a United States and Nigerian-based health tech startup that collects African genetic code to use in health research and drug development. 54gene aims to prioritize diseases that affect Africans disproportionately.[3]

The company aims to make drug discoveries through studying the genetically diverse African population[4] and is named after the 54 countries that constitute the African continent.[5]

The company specialises in genetics, DNA, sequencing and health.[6]

History

54gene aims to scale operations and to support human genetics research and improve human health. It currently has an engineering team and a propriety platform to catalogue and analyse the genetic data.[7]

54gene is currently in partnership with over 17 hospitals across states in all six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

Depending on the research the company conducts they collect blood, tissue and saliva from research participants. All of their research studies are approved by an independent research ethics committee and all research participants give their full informed consent.[8] 54gene’s African biobank focus has expanded from oncology to include cardiology, neurology, endocrinology and sickle cell disease.[9]

All participants in its biobank contribute their genetic material voluntarily and data privacy and security is ensured.[10]

Partnerships

54gene partnered with Illumina, a US firm, to launch the Lagos genomics facility. This facility will be equipped with Illumina’s cutting-edge sequencing and high-density microarray technology platforms, that will generate genetic information for drug development and health research. This partnership means that African samples that are stored in the biobank will no longer be sent overseas for results, as they can be sequenced and analysed in the biobank. The local infrastructure reduces the costs and turnaround time for test results.[11]

The company was contracted by the Aliko Dangote Foundation to set up a 400 test/day capacity lab in Kano State, Nigeria. The lab was inaugurated on 03 May, 2020 and aimed to increase its testing capacity to 1000 tests a day by 10 May, 2020. The lab was set up in Muhammadu Hospital in Kano where there is an isolation centre.[12]

54gene has partnered with First City Monument Bank and the Ogun State Government to create its mobile Covid-19 lab. Other partners for this project include Argentil Capital Partners, Arnergy Solar, Tempohousing and Wild Fusion.[13]

54gene was appointed as the Nigeria country partner for the International Registry of Healthcare Workers Exposed to Covid-19. In partnership with Certara, a global leader in biosimulation, 54gene will provide clinical trial management, oversight and support for the study conducted in Nigeria.[14]

Launches

The company announced the formation of its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) in 2020. The SAB consists of global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics and data science. The company is currently working with researchers, clinicians and geneticists, to improve the global collective knowledge of genomic determinants of health to facilitate translational research.[15]

54gene launched the African Centre for Translational Genomics (ACTG) to facilitate translational genomics by African scientists in 2020.[16]

The ACTG funded its first study under the Non-Communicable Diseases - Genetic Heritage Study(NCD-GHS) Consortium. This will see over 100,000 Nigerians participating in the study that seeks to understand the genetic basis of the prevalent NCD’s in Nigeria such as cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic kidney and sickle cell disease.[17] The company launched a Clinical Programmes Services (CPS) division in 2020 that provides end-to-end clinical development services, intelligence, logistics and infrastructure to enable early successful conduct of clinical trials in Africa, starting in Nigeria.

The CPS division will see it partnering with global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, multilateral health organisations that are aimed at organising, helping to discover, developing and commercializing new therapeutic and diagnostic products.[18]

54gene launched a fund that raised $500,000 in March 2020, aiming at increasing Nigeria’s ability to test for coronavirus.[19]

It donated $150,000 and within 24 hours of the launch, an additional $350,000 from partners including Union Bank, was raised.[20]

The funds raised will be utilised to buy testing instruments, biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment.[21]

It rolled out a mobile laboratory to boost Nigeria’s capacity to test citizens for the coronavirus. The mobile lab is in Ogun, a state in the southwestern region in Nigeria. This lab is a 40ft containerized structure[22] that is fully kitted with vital instruments such as an autoclave, bio-safety cabinet, centrifuge, heating blocks, vortexes, pipettes and PCR machines to support Covid-19 testing.[23]

Despite the company being a for-profit organisation, it aims to balance money-making motives with advancing health in Africa.[24]

Investments

The company secured a seed round funding of $4.5 million in July 2019 and closed a Series A funding round of $15 million that was led by Adjuvant Capital, Novartis and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This round was participated by Raba Capital, V8 Capital and Ingressive Capital. It was followed on by an investment from YCombinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Area VC and Pioneer Fund.

Awards and Achievements

The company has built an African Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples and provides access to data and bio-specimen, that researchers can utilise to support academic and development research.[25]

54gene was selected to participate in the Google Launchpad Africa accelerator programme,[26] and made it onto the Times Magazine List of 12 innovations that would change healthcare in the 2020s.

Nigerian newspaper, Punch, listed it as one of five innovations that would improve healthcare for Africans while Fast Company added 54gene to its list of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” in 2020.

54gene was listed as one of the 10 Nigerian startups that won a Nigerian Innovation award at the Nigeria Innovation Summit 2020 on 26 October, 2020,[27] and a few months later AppsAfrica awarded the company the Disruptive Innovation Award[28] on 15 December, 2020.[29]

References

  1. 54gene Closes $15M Series A - PR Newswire. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  2. 54gene Raises $15 million in Series A funding - CoinPedia. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  3. African genomics startup 54gene raises $15M led by Adjuvant Capital - Tech Crunch. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  4. Nigerian healthtech platform 54gene secures $4.5m - Venture Burn. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  5. Only 2% of genomic material available for research comes from Africa; 54gene wants to change that - Tech Crunch. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  6. 54gene: About - LinkedIn. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  7. African genomics startup 54gene raises $15M led by Adjuvant Capital - Tech Crunch. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  8. 54GENE: COLLECTING AFRICAN DNA TO IMPROVE HEALTHCARE - Fair Planet. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  9. Nigerian e-health startup 54gene closes $4.5m seed round - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  10. Nigerian healthtech platform 54gene secures $4.5m - Venture Burn. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  11. Nigerian startup 54gene partners US firm Illumina to launch Lagos genomics facility - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  12. Aliko Dangote Foundation Engages 54gene Laboratory to Conduct 1,000 COVID-19 Tests per Day in Kano - Naira metrics. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  13. Nigeria’s 54gene launches mobile COVID-19 testing lab - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  14. Nigerian e-health startup 54gene launches clinical research programme - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  15. 54gene Closes $15M Series A - PR Newswire. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  16. We have Collaborated with Leading Geneticists to Launch a Landmark Study into 100,000 Participants - 54gene Blog. Retrieved 11 June, 2021.
  17. 54GENE: COLLECTING AFRICAN DNA TO IMPROVE HEALTHCARE - Fair Planet. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  18. Nigerian e-health startup 54gene launches clinical research programme - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  19. 54gene rolls out mobile laboratory to boost Nigeria’s coronavirus test capacity - Tech Cabal. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  20. Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Support Fund Launched By 54gene - Forbes. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  21. Biotech startup, 54Gene raises $500,000 to boost COVID-19 testing in Nigeria - Tech Cabal. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  22. 54gene rolls out mobile laboratory to boost Nigeria’s coronavirus test capacity - Tech Cabal. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  23. Aliko Dangote Foundation Engages 54gene Laboratory to Conduct 1,000 COVID-19 Tests per Day in Kano - Naira metrics. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  24. African genomics startup 54gene raises $15M led by Adjuvant Capital - Tech Crunch. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  25. 54gene Closes $15M Series A - PR Newswire. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  26. Nigerian e-health startup 54gene closes $4.5m seed round - Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 28 May, 2021.
  27. 10 startups win innovation awards - Punch. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  28. About Us - 54gene. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.
  29. AppsAfrica Awards 2020 -Winners Announced - AppsAfrica. Retrieved 31 May, 2021.