54gene, a Nigerian health tech company advancing African genomics research for improved global health outcomes, has secured $25M in a Series B round. 

The round was led by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund with participation from Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, Ingressive Capital and others. 

In April of 2020, the biotech startup closed a $15 million Series A. Their recent funding brings the company’s total investment to over $45M since it was founded by Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong in 2019. 

The company continues to lead the new generation of health technology in Africa. In December of 2020, 54gene unveiled the first genome sequencing lab in Nigeria in partnership with Illumina, an American biotech company. 

Last year during the pandemic, 54gene worked closely with Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control (NCDC) in conducting COVID-19 tests across the country and played a pivotal role in purchasing necessary equipment like PPE, test kits, and others needed to combat the virus. 

The company plans to use the new funding to expand its capabilities in drug discovery in Africa for Africans and the global population. As part of its expansion plans, 54gene will focus on sequencing, target identification and validation, and precision medicine clinical trials. The company also plans to use this new funding to enter more African countries.

54gene appoints five global health industry veterans

To scale global ambitions and drive the company’s vision, 54gene is bringing global experts with years of experience to take on high-level and strategic roles within the business. 

Colm O’Dushlaine has been appointed as Vice President of Genomics and Data Science. O’Dushlaine joins 54gene with 18 years of experience in statistical genetics of large-scale datasets and was formerly at Regeneron Genetic Center and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

The company has also appointed Peter Fekkes as its Vice President of Drug Discovery, and Teresia Bost as General Counsel. Fekkes is a drug development expert who has developed and led drug discovery programs at Novartis, FogPharma and H3 Biosciences; while Bost is coming in with over 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Bost held various senior counsel roles at Celgene; worked as Vice President & Associate General Counsel at Jazz Pharmaceuticals; and was appointed General Counsel at Quartet Health.

Jude Uzonwanne also joins as the company’s Chief Business Officer. Jude was a former partner at IQVIA, ZS Associates, and also held multiple roles at the Monitor Group, Bain and Company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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54gene also plans to expand its genomics and molecular diagnostics division across Africa and has also brought in Michelle Ephraim as its pan-Africa General Manager of Diagnostics, to lead this new business unit. Ephraim has held various sales leadership roles across Africa for Leica Biosystems, PerkinElmer, and Merck Millipore.

“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.” Ene-Obong commented.

“In this round, we have brought in partners that keep us true to our mission of equalizing 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.” He concluded.

Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund is a joint initiative between Paris-based venture capitalist Cathay Innovation and Tunisia-based private equity firm AfricInvest. The fund targets startups or ventures that leverage technology and innovative business models to respond to African socio-economic challenges. 54genes joins the fund’s portfolio which includes South Africa’s Aerobotics and WhereIsMyTransport and Nigeria’s Migo. 

Speaking on their investment Yassine Oussaifi, Partner at Carthay AfricInvest, said “As a pioneer in genomics 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.”

Damilare Dosunmu | Author

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