African Genomics Startup 54gene Closes USD 15 Mn Series A From Investors Backed By Bill Gates

By  |  April 14, 2020

Just a few weeks after launching a fund and raising USD 500 K in 24 hours to tackle COVID-19 testing challenges, 54gene has closed a Series A round of USD 15 Mn.

Adjuvant Capital — a life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — led the funding round.

The Series-A round of the African genomics research, services, and development company also drew 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.

Last July, 54gene raised USD 4.5 Mn in a seed round and with the latest investment brings the startup’s total funding to USD 19.5 Mn to-date.

Founded in January 2019 by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, 54gene was created to address the significant gap the genomics market currently poses for Africa, and build and use African genetic data sets to make landmark discoveries to support therapeutic development.

As of 2018, less than 3 percent of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies [GWAS] were of African ancestry and currently, less than 1 percent of global drug discovery occurs on the African continent.

Located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, and in the U.S., 54gene aims to improve the development, availability, and efficacy of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population.

54gene claims to currently work with 300+ researchers, clinicians, and geneticists across the continent, to improve the global collective knowledge of genomic determinants of health and to facilitate translational research.

As spelled out in the official press release, the USD 15 Mn Series-A investment will allow the company to scale operations in support of generating novel insights from human genetics research that result in high impact discoveries for improving human health through therapeutic development.

The investment will also be used to accelerate discovery capabilities by bolstering operations in genetics, bioinformatics, preclinical, clinical and commercial programs.

For its next stage of growth, the company said it will further explore partnerships and opportunities for co-development of drug targets and therapeutics, and expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic companies for clinical programs in Africa.

In addition to its Series A raise, 54gene is also announcing the formation of its Scientific Advisory Board [SAB]. The SAB is composed of some of the top global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics and data science including Dr. Michael F. Murray, Professor Manuel Rivas, and other notable personalities.

Commenting on the development, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said: “This new partnership marks a significant evolution in the growth of our company. In the coming months, we will be focusing on building a genomic resource that we hope will add significantly to global health, while also translating to the health benefits of patients in Africa.”

Jenny Yip, Managing Partner of Adjuvant Capital added: “There is enormous potential in expanding the reach of global drug and vaccine discovery by including more diverse populations in research efforts. We were impressed by 54gene’s commitment to building a world-class network of African clinicians and geneticists and are excited to work with them as they scale and seek to drive meaningful improvements in global public health.”

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