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African Genomics Company 54gene Closes $15M Series A Round

NEW YORK – African genomics research company 54gene said on Tuesday that it has closed a $15 million Series A financing round.

The round was led by Adjuvant Capital, a life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Raba Capital, V8 Capital, and Ingressive Capital also participated in the round, while Y Combinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Aera VC, and Pioneer Fund provided follow-on investment.

The company, which has offices in Nigeria and the US, raised $4.5 million in seed funding in July 2019 with plans to build the world's first and largest pan-African biobank. The new financing round brings the company's total venture capital investment to $19.5 million.

The company said it plans to use the new funding to scale its operations with the aim of generating novel insights on human genetics that result in high-impact discoveries for improving human health through the development of therapeutics. The investment will also be used to accelerate 54gene's discovery capabilities by bolstering its operations in genetics and bioinformatics, as well as its preclinical, clinical, and commercial programs.

As part of its growth, 54gene also said it will explore partnerships and opportunities for co-development of drug targets and therapeutics, and expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostics companies for clinical programs in Africa. These partnerships will be led by the firm's newly appointed Vice President of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Kemi Williams, who formerly served as head of clinical affairs for Siemens Healthineers' US molecular diagnostics business.

In addition to its Series A round, 54gene also said it has formed a scientific advisory board. Participating on the board will be Michael Murray, director of clinical operations at the Center for Genomic Health and a professor in the genetics department at Yale School of Medicine; Manuel Rivas, assistant professor at Stanford University; Greg Hinkle, VP of research informatics at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; and Jeff Hammerbacher, founder and general partner of Related Sciences. 

"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," 54gene Founder and CEO Abasi Ene-Obong said in a statement. "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."