Nigerian genomics startup 54Gene has closed a Series B funding round at $25 million. The funding round was led by Africa-focused venture capital company Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund and the participation of Endeavor Capital, Plexo Capital, etc., and existing investors like KdT Ventures, Adjuvant Capital, and Ingressive Capital.
54gene came into existence in 2019 as a solution to bridging the gap in the global genomics market. The company was founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong. According to the company’s LinkedIn page, almost 90% of genetic material used in pharmaceutical research is Caucasian. Only 2% is African, despite the fact that Africans and people of African ancestry are more genetically diverse than all other world populations combined. As a result, pharmaceutical research and development is lacking the diverse data that may hold the key to medical discoveries and new healthcare solutions. This was the basic problem that the company sought to solve.
Although it is still a young company, 54Gene has had some impressive moments. Currently, it works with more than 300 researchers, geneticists and clinicians across Africa to build and maintain an African biobank. The company is said to be the first of many to come and was predicted by TIME to have a huge impact on the world of public health and medical science in the 2020s. 54Gene’s biobank houses various African genetic data that could help researchers with their research, etc.
In July 2019, 54Gene raised $4.5 million in seed funding and went on to raise $15 million in Series A funding that took place in April 2020. With the latest funding of $25 million, the total funding that the startup has received amounts to about $45 million, and all these it has achieved within a space of two years.
As part of its achievements, 54Gene announced the completion of a laboratory that is capable of carrying out human whole-genome sequencing here in Nigeria without having to take the samples abroad for studying, thus making the whole research process cost-effective and less time-consuming.
Speaking on the funding round, 54Gene’s CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong mentioned that “it’s truly incredible to witness the impact of African scientists in global research and it is critical to global health that this continues”.
The company seems to be placing more priority on new drug discovery. “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”, he added.
Apart from channeling effort into new drug discovery, the company plans on using the funds to fuel its African expansion.