54Gene strategically works in Africa because Africans have the most genetic diversity globally. What would surprise you is knowing that most genetic data comes from Europe, Asia, and other continents. Sadly, only 3% of available gene data come from Africa, so the company is changing that. Consequently, Africa is disadvantaged because the genetic response is the basis for drug production.
Who Is 54Gene?
54gene is a biotechnology company that was formerly Stack Diagnostics. Abasi Ene-Obong (PhD) founded it in 2019 since it has always been his lifelong goal to help Africa equalize precision medicine. So, they have their primary office in Lagos, Nigeria, where they do gene testing and the molecular structure of the genome. They liaise with different medical centres in Nigeria to work with their patient’s consent to help donate genes for research purposes. Having a fully equipped laboratory in Nigeria makes it possible for them to gather curated genetic information and also phenotypic data with the help of their GENIISYS™. Their proprietary genomics infrastructure and insights ecosystem are helpful for clinical research and treatment for some diseases. They give other biotechnology companies such as 23andMe, Myriad, and Futura Genetics good competition.
What do they do?
54gene considers itself to be more than just a gene bank; the company is a health technology company that uses insights from the world’s most diverse populations to solve pressing health problems. The work involves producing data that can inform care and translate research into potential drugs or molecular diagnostics. They run clinical programs to help test drugs and treat different diseases. Thus, ensuring that there are optimal drugs for the growing African population.
With many African researchers working across the globe and coming together to brainstorm, 54gene provides the opportunity for these brilliant to stay and find solutions to the continent’s challenges.
The company is currently working on non-communicable diseases. Their key interest is offering much-needed support to development research. They study cancer, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine disorders, and infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, malaria, HIV, and Hepatitis B. These are all common diseases affecting Africans. This study impacts:
- Availability of Medicine
- Molecular testing
- The clinical trial
54Gene Funding & Partners
The first seedling fundraised by the start-up biotech company in July 2019 was $4.5M. They successfully got their series A funding, which was $15M in April 2020.
Adjuvant Capital, their lead investor, and others like Y Combinator, KdT Ventures, Better Ventures, Aera VC, and Pioneer Fun helped them get other funding. In 2021 they got $25m for Series B funding to advance drug discovery through clinical trials, and this brought the company’s fund up to $45m in two years. For a start-up company, it is exceptional.
They have worked with Genentech, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Parallax, Illumine, Certara, World Economic Forum, and paradigm4.
More exciting times are ahead for the continent of Africa as 54gene progresses in the area of genetics. With such milestones achieved in the space of two years, we expect more advanced medicine for Africa.