By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigerian health technology company, 54Gene, has announced the closing of a $25 million Series B funding round led by Africa-focused venture capital company, Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund.
Other investors that participated in the round included Adjuvant Capital, Ingressive Capital and KdT Ventures, as well as Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital and others.
This is coming after the company raised $15 million in series A funding in April 2020 right after raising $4.5 million seed funding in July 2019.
With the latest funding, the startup’s total investment has reached more than $45 million in just over 2 years of existence.
Founded in January 2019 by Abasi Ene-Obong (CEO), Damilola Oni, Gatumi Aliyu and Ogochukwu Francis Osifo, 54Gene offers testing and molecular diagnostics services to Africans.
The startup predicted to impact the world of public health and medical science in the 2020s by TIME, currently works with over 300 researchers, clinicians and geneticists across Africa to build and maintain an African biobank.
This biobank contains African genetic data sets to make landmark discoveries in support of therapeutic development by researchers.
In December 2020, the company announced the completion of a state-of-the-art lab capable of carrying out human whole-genome sequencing in Nigeria. This new lab, a first of its kind in Africa, enables the sequencing, genotyping and analysis of African samples stored in its biobank without transporting them overseas. This will reduce the costs and turnaround time for test results.
Now, the startup seems to be putting more focus on new drug discovery. Aside from expanding its capabilities in sequencing, target identification and validation, the startup noted that the new capital raised will also be deployed for precision medicine clinical trials, enabling drug discovery in Africa for both Africans and the global population.
Speaking on the latest funding package, the CEO, Mr Abasi Ene-Obong 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.”
The new capital will also enable the company to begin its expansion across the African continent and to achieve this, 54Gene has made several strategic senior appointments and brought in new team members with much-needed experience.
Peter Fekkes who developed and led drug discovery programs at Novartis, FogPharma and H3 Biosciences joins the team as Vice President, Drug Discovery.
Colm O’Dushlaine formerly of Regeneron Genetic Center and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT joins as Vice President – Genomics and Data Science.
Jude Uzonwanne who was formerly a partner at IQVIA, ZS Associates and held multiple roles at the Monitor Group, Bain and Company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joins the team as Chief Business Officer.
Speaking on the new senior appointments, Mr Ene-Obong said the partners were brought in to keep the company true to its mission of equalizing healthcare explaining that the partners can help the company replicate its 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 is exciting to see our company shift into the next gear as it targets becoming one of the top global companies in genomics research,” he said.
COVID-19: Nigeria to Start Vaccination of Children
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
In a few months’ time, Nigeria will commence administering vaccines to children under 12 years to protect them against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
This vaccination of children against the virus would be done in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The UNICEF Health Specialist and Officer in charge of Enugu Field Office, Mr Olusoji Akinleye, said during a recent media executive meeting in the state that it had taken so long for this to be implemented because of the cluttered processes involved before any drug would be administered to children.
Speaking at the event, which was in collaboration with Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), Umuahia, on Child Rights-influenced Reporting on COVID-19, the specialist said that a lot of children had died due to the COVID-19, adding that, “In the next few months, Nigeria will start administering the vaccine on children under 12 years of age.”
He said, “We recognize the partnership in promoting and highlighting the right of every child to life. The very first right that every human being is supposed to have is the right to life; we recognise that the media have always supported the effort of government and partners, including UNICEF, in promoting the right to health.”
Noting the challenges faced by the health sector regarding public hesitancy, unwillingness, and misconceptions against the COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Akinleye encouraged parents to ensure that their children were protected by obeying the safety protocols that have been put in place.
In addition to this, he said, “UNICEF looks forward to more robust collaboration with the media and an expected upward trend in the promotion of health and hygiene practices by the media in Nigeria by daily communication to the public of protocols enforced by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Lagos to Host Conference on Biosecurity, One Health
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
The Lagos State Government has announced the plan to hold the seventh Annual African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity as part of efforts to ensure that the Africa continent braces up for the challenges posed by emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threats.
The conference is in partnership with Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET) and is scheduled to hold both virtually and physically at the Civic Centre at Lagos from Wednesday, October 27 to Friday, October 29, 2021, with the theme Universal Approach to Addressing Biosecurity Threats – Genomic Intelligence and Vaccines.
Interested participants have been advised to visit the GET website to register and attend the hybrid conference.
According to the state Commissioner for Health, Mr Akin Abayomi, the conference is seventh in the series of conferences organised by GET, in partnership with governments around West Africa and the African continent, to help develop a biosecurity road map and to increase resilience in dealing with pathogens of high consequence.
Mr Abayomi expressed the need to continually focus on the key importance of the African response in combating emerging infectious diseases.
He stated that the need for various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats necessitated the need for the conference.
“Lagos has teamed up once again this year with GET to organise the seventh African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity. We have a very important thematic initiative this year to address the universal approach to biosecurity threats using genomic intelligence and vaccine,” the commissioner noted.
He further explained that genomic intelligence is the ability to sequence a pathogen that is causing an outbreak, adding that COVID-19 is the focus of attention for the conference.
As stated by him, genomic intelligence should be vigorous, with significant measures taken to mitigate the potency of current and future epidemics as well as keeping up with effective vaccine production.
Mr Abayomi further explained that the conference’s thematic areas cover Vaccine Strategy, Genome Research, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Biosecurity and Bio-threat, Biobanking Infrastructure, Climate change and Cultural Anthropological Social and Economic Impact of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He also advocated various treatment strategies and preparedness against future biosecurity threats as he stated the key importance of the African response in combating Emerging Infectious Diseases,
He stated that Lagos is prepared to welcome participants, policymakers, researchers, scientists and other interested persons to the conference, adding that the concept of One Health is necessary for ensuring biosecurity and all-around health.
In his remarks, the Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, Mr Ayodotun Bobadoye, noted that participants at the conference will include policymakers, scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, experts in infectious disease management, professionals from one health field, development partners, community and opinion leaders amongst others from within and outside the continent.
Mr Bobadoye further noted that resolutions at the conference will help chart a positive course for strategic response against Biosecurity threats in Africa and by extension the world.
NCS Honours LASUTH for Excellence in Cardiovascular Care
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) has been announced as the winner of the Excellence in Cardiovascular Care Award.
This award was given to LAUSTH on the premises the hospital is renowned for its contribution to the growth and development of cardiovascular medicine and surgery in the country.
The respected health institution grabbed this award at the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Cardiac Society (NCS) held in Lagos recently.
LASUTH is one of the two tertiary hospitals carrying out open-heart surgery in Nigeria. It has continued to make giant strides in improving the lives of the citizens of Lagos State and its environs.
The soon to be quaternary hospital has over the years provided high-quality healthcare to Lagosians using state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge technology to solve common and emerging health problems.
LASUTH heart surgeons have performed some of the most advanced procedures in the medical field. The hospital has experienced professionals who specialize in open-heart surgeries that effectively treat heart conditions while minimizing patients’ recovery time and maximizing the best possible outcomes.
This made the NCS during the recently concluded Scientific Conference honour the hospital for her feats and outstanding achievement in tackling cardiovascular diseases through a consistent open-heart surgery with great success.
It was learned that these surgical feats would not have been possible without the expertise of the medical professionals at the LASUTH Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Unit (CTSU) led by Dr Bode Falase, a cardiac surgeon and ably supported by the management of the hospital, under the leadership of the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo.
In a few weeks, LASUTH will be the only government-owned hospital with a cardiac catheterization laboratory (Cathlab). This is a laboratory with special imaging equipment used for the visualization of the arteries and checking blood flow to and from the heart.
LASUTH said one of the advantages of using its facility for cardiovascular issues is that patients would be exceptionally cared for at a reduced cost while also reducing medical tourism.
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