54gene was founded in 2019 by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong to address a large gap in the global genomics market: nearly 90% of genetic material used in pharmaceutical research is Caucasian.
African genetics data represents a tiny fraction of genomics data – despite the fact that Africans and people of African ancestry are more genetically diverse than all other world populations combined. In fact, less than 3% of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) were of African ancestry, and less than 1% of global drug discovery occurs on the African continent. As a result, pharmaceutical R&D lacks a diverse data set that may hold the key to new medical discoveries.
54gene’s research focuses on two areas: infectious disease and non-communicable diseases.
Last year, 54Gene was recruited to a Y Combinator accelerator program, chosen for the “Google for Startups” accelerator. That led to a capital raise of $4.5 million in seed funding from venture capital firms, a record for a Nigerian health tech startup.
According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector investment arm of the World Bank, the gap in the genomic database requires vast resources and long-term strategies from many different players. 54Gene is collaborating with other entities with similar goals and funding sources of their own, such as H3Africa, a $176 million collaboration initiated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, and the African Society of Human Genetics, and run by the African Academy of Sciences.
The 54gene Biobank™
The 54gene Biobank™ is the company’s advanced biorepository. It stores biological samples needed for research. The biobank is located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, with the goal of serving as a resource for the global health community to ensure Africans benefit from cutting edge medical innovation.
Access to Capital
The company’s most recent capital raise, a $15 million Series A, was led by Adjuvant Capital, a life sciences fund backed by IFC, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The round included participation from Raba Capital, V8 Capital, Ingressive Capital, and follow on investment from Y Combinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Aera VC and Pioneer Fund.
Image source: 54gene