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Fund boost for African drug discovery drive

Firm seeks to expand precision medicine capabilities across the African continent

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A health tech firm which aims to advance African genomics research to improve global health outcomes has raised US$25m to speed its progress.

54gene will now increase its capabilities in sequencing, target identification and validation; and precision medicine clinical trials.

The new capital will also enable the company to begin its expansion across the African continent.

By growing its genomics and molecular diagnostics division across Africa, it hopes to help more African patients access accurate diagnostics; while enabling the application of precision medicine in  clinical settings throughout the continent.

To lead this activitiy, the company has brought in Michelle Ephraim, as general manager diagnostics pan-Africa. Michelle has held various sales leadership roles across Africa for Leica Biosystems, PerkinElmer, and Merck Millipore.

Other strategic appointments include Colm O’Dushlaine, vice president – genomics and data science, who joins with over 18 years’ experience in statistical genetics of large-scale datasets and was formerly at Regeneron Genetic Center and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

Also appointed is Peter Fekkes, vice president – drug discovery, who developed and led drug discovery programmes at Novartis, FogPharma and H3 Biosciences.

Other additions include Teresia Bost, general counsel, who joins with over 20 years’ experience in healthcare where she’s held various senior counsel roles at Celgene, was VP and associate general Counsel at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and general counsel at Quartet Health.

The series B fundraising round was led by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund. The round also included participation from Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, Ingressive Capital and others.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO, 54gene, 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 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.”

This round brings the company’s total investment to date to more than US$45m since being founded in 2019.

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