African-focused healthtech genomics and AI start-up 54gene has closed a Series A round of US$15m funding to scale up operations.
It was led by Adjuvant Capital, a life sciences fund backed by International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The round included 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.
In July last year it raised US$4.5m in seed funding.
“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,” said founder and chief executive Abasi Ene-Obong. “We will also be expanding our collaborations in Africa with both public and private stakeholders and investing in setting up a state-of-the-art research lab with high-throughput genetic processing and BSL 3 capabilities in Nigeria and ensuring that we build some of our innovative pipelines on the African continent.”
54gene was launched in January last year 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% of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) were of African ancestry and currently, less than 1% of global drug discovery occurs on the African continent.
In addition to its Series A raise, 54gene is also announcing the formation of its Scientific Advisory Board. This is composed of Michael Murray, director of clinical operations, Centre for Genomic Health, Yale School of Medicine; Manuel Rivas, assistant professor at Stanford University; Greg Hinkle, VP research informatics, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; and Jeff Hammerbacher, founder and general partner, Related Sciences.