Health technology company, 54gene, which is advancing African genomics research for improved global health outcomes, has secured $25 million to enable it expand across the African continent.
The new capital raised will be deployed to expand 54gene’s capabilities in sequencing, target identification and validation, and precision medicine clinical trials enabling drug discovery in Africa for both Africans and the global population.
The Series B round was led by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund and included participation from Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, Ingressive Capital and others. This round brings the company’s total investment to date to more than $45 million since being founded in 2019.
Penultimate Thursday, 54gene won the Company of the Year Award at the just concluded LEADERSHIP Awards 2020 held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on September 9, 2021.
It is advancing the field of African genomics to unlock scientific discoveries as well as improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes within Africa and the global community.
To help with this new expansion of its life science business, 54gene has made several strategic senior appointments with Colm O’Dushlaine joining as vice president, Genomics and Data Science. He comes with over 18 years’ experience in statistical genetics of large-scale datasets. He was formerly at Regeneron Genetic Centre and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
Joining 54gene also is Peter Fekkes as vice president, Drug Discovery. He developed and led drug discovery programmes at Novartis, FogPharma and H3 Biosciences.
Others are: Teresia Bost, general counsel, joining with over 20 years’ experience in healthcare where she has held various senior counsel roles at Celgene, was vice president and associate general counsel at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and general counsel at Quartet Health.
The new team includes Jude Uzonwanne, chief business officer. He was formerly a partner at IQVIA, ZS Associates and held multiple roles at the Monitor Group, Bain and Company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
CEO, 54gene, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, speaking on the development said, “It’s truly incredible to witness the impact of African scientists in global research and it is critical to global health that this continues. We want to scale our contribution to global drug discovery by extensively developing life science capabilities on the continent and this additional capital will catalyse our endeavours
“In this round we have brought in partners that keep us true to our mission of equalising 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,” Dr. Ene-Obong added.
54gene will also be expanding its genomics and molecular diagnostics division across Africa, ensuring that African patients get access to accurate diagnostics and enabling the application of precision medicine in the clinical setting throughout the continent.
To lead this new business unit, the company has brought in Michelle Ephraim as general manager, Diagnostics Pan-Africa. She has held various sales leadership roles across Africa for Leica Biosystems, PerkinElmer, and Merck Millipore.
Partner at Cathay AfricInvest, Yassine Oussaifi said, “As a pioneer in genomic and precision medicine in Nigeria, 54gene has built a unique health technology platform leveraging African resources to unlock scientific discoveries for the benefit of African and global communities.
“At Cathay AfricInvest Innovation, we’re dedicated to backing innovative, inclusive solutions that connect African technology and research with global innovation ecosystems to help them scale.
“54gene works across drug discovery, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials, boosting access and affordability of various healthcare solutions that will have a positive impact worldwide. We look forward to working with the 54gene team on their development on the continent and beyond.”
Founded in 2019, 54gene generates genetic insights from research cohorts in the world’s most diverse populations to improve the development, availability and efficacy of therapeutics and diagnostics that will prove beneficial to all populations.