Black Owned Genomics Startup 54gene has closed a Series A round of $15 million, bringing the company’s total venture investment to $19.5 million after it secured $4.5 million seed funding in July.
The latest round was led by Adjuvant Capital, a New York and San Francisco-based life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The investment will allow the company to “scale operations in support of generating novel insights from human genetics research, which results in high-impact discoveries for improving human health through therapeutic development,” 54gene said in a press release.
“There is enormous potential in expanding the reach of global drug and vaccine discovery by including more diverse populations in research efforts,” said Jenny Yip, Adjuvant Managing Partner.
The startup will also work towards accelerating discovery capabilities by improving operations in genetics, bioinformatics, preclinical, clinical and commercial programs, it added. “This funding comes at a historically meaningful time, allowing us to deliver global impact through continued investment in research and strategic partnerships with leaders in the biomedical industry,” Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said.
54gene was launched in January 2019 with the goal of addressing the huge gap the genomics market currently poses for Africa. As of 2018, less than three percent of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies were of African ancestry and currently, less than one percent of global drug discovery occurs on the continent.
Located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, and in the United States, 54gene aims to improve the development and availability of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population. It currently works with over 300 researchers, clinicians, and geneticists across the continent and has built an African Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples to provide data for academic and development research.
The company has said it will further explore partnerships and opportunities for the co-development of drug targets and therapeutics as part of its next stage of growth. It expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic companies for clinical programs in Africa, led by the newly-appointed Vice President of Clinical & Regulatory Affairs, Kemi Williams.
In addition to the Series A raise, 54gene has formed a Scientific Advisory Board, composed of global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics, and data science. The new partnership “marks a significant evolution in the growth of our company,” said Ene-Obong. “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.”
The investment round also 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.