The African population offers greater genomic diversity in comparison to any other people group in the world, according to Science.
Despite this, most genetic research is conducted in European countries, raising concerns for the integrity of medical research. This is why Nigerian-based startup 54gene is combatting the discrepancies in genomic research through its health technologies. The advancements will provide medical discoveries for the African population and the diaspora.
To date, the genomic startup founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong has collected over 300,000 genomic samples. The companies efforts will expand its medical discoveries thanks to $25 million raised in a Series B funding round, a press release states. The round was led by capital firm Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund and included Plexo Capital, KdT Ventures, Ingressive Capital, Adjuvant Capital, Endeavor Capital and more.
The company’s promising impact on the future of drug and health research is drawing in investments at a staggering rate. Since the companies launch in 2019, it has raised over $45 million in funding.
“Though the arc of conducting early research through drug approval can belong in biotech, we have taken the approach to building the backbone that is needed for short-term successes to long-term gains that provide better healthcare delivery and treatment outcomes from diseases,” Eno-Obong shared with TechCrunch.
The founder and CEO also revealed to the outlet that 54gene created a personal genetics sequencing and microarray lab in Lagos last September. A promising feat for the lab is their whole-genome sequencing and whole-exome sequencing capabilities which can reveal approximately 85 percent of noted diseases. Samples are collected from participants who volunteer genetic samples through a swab or blood test.
Thanks to the additional funding, the company hopes to fulfill its biobank capacity goal of 500,000 and manages to keep experiencing growth to achieve it. Its biobank increased from 60,000 samples to 300,000 since its last raise in 2020. Funds will also be used to expand company operations to house more talent.
It currently partners with Tanzania Human Genetics Organization, and additional partnerships are underway to aid in expansion efforts in areas including “sequencing, target identification and validation, and precision medicine clinical trials,” according to a press release. With plans to spread across Africa, Michelle Ephraim, the managing director of Pan-Africa Diagnostics, will lead the new business unit.
“In this round we have brought in partners that keep us true to our mission of equalizing healthcare and who can help us replicate our success throughout Africa. We believe the world will benefit from an African global drug discovery company that leverages the deep insights found in genomics research in diverse populations and ensures true equity for the African population. It’s exciting to see our company shift into the next gear as it targets becoming one of the top global companies in genomics research,” Eno-Obong said in a press release.