54Gene Plans to Build the First Dedicated Biobank for Africa and the African Diaspora

Jul 6, 2019 | African Diaspora, Biobank, Samples, Tissue

laboratory freezer for secure sample storage

54gene, an African-focused health tech genomics and AI start-up recently raised $4.5 million in seed funding from large investment group including Y Combinator. The health-tech venture focuses on Africa—as well as the African Diaspora, charting new territory in the global pharma industry.

54gene just raised $4.5 million seed round. Investors included Y Combinator, Fifty Years, Better Ventures, KdT Ventures, Hack VC and Techammer, among other reportsPulse. At just six-month-old, it seeks to pioneer the world’s first African DNA biobank, install electronic data capture systems in the leading tertiary hospitals in Nigeria and expand its world-class teams both in the US and Nigeria, ahead of the company’s expansion on the continent.

A Hug Gap in Health Knowledge: Missing African Data

By 2018, only 2% of the data used in “Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) were of African ancestry. Enter 54gene—now entering the market to fill this void to build the largest database of genomic and phenotypic consented data of Africans. The accumulated data sets will be used exclusively for research not to mention proactively address the significant gap the economic market currently poses for Africa, leveraging the use of African DNA to focus on drug discovery opportunities that will improve access.

Founder Comments

Abasi Ene-Obong, Ph.D. reports “The genomic revolution has taken place everywhere except Africa; home to more than 1 billion people, and the very birthplace of humankind. What many people don’t realize is how genetically diverse Africa is, and that Africans have married within their tribes for thousands of years, which makes our DNA ideal for studying loss-of-function type mutations that can be replicated into new drugs. We believe this will be done through partnering with pharmaceutical industry players to drive groundbreaking research and layering a data science capability on the data being collected.


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