54gene, the Nigerian genomics research, services, and development startup has launched a $500,000 Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund to expand Coronavirus testing facilities in the country.
54gene, which recently raised a $4.5M to build the world’s first African DNA biobank, will use fund to support the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control [NCDC] to tackle the current challenges around testing for COVID-19 in Nigeria. The firm donated $150,000 and secured an additional $350,000 from several partners including Union Bank.
Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO 54gene says, “With the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund, we are working in sync with the NCDC to make Nigeria’s public health an absolute priority during this global pandemic, which has left thousands dead or fighting for their lives. We are extremely ambitious in our mission to expand the testing capacity for Nigeria, and expect to increase the present rate by at least 10X in the coming weeks. In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is essential for us to know who has the disease, so we can put in place effective measures around quarantining confirmed cases.
The money raised will help increase COVID-19 testing capacity in the country by up to 1,000 additional tests a day, by buying testing instruments and the required biosafety materials such as biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment needed to keep frontline healthcare workers safe.
Several Nigerian institutions look to raise enough to accelerate and expand to up to 5,000 tests per day to help minimize the spread of the infection. The team is also making a call for a COVID-19 workforce trained in using qPCR instruments and other molecular diagnostics methods. The monies raised will be channelled towards recruiting these people for a period of time to support existing public laboratories.
54gene, NDC and other stakeholders expect to deploy the fund within days, purchasing vital testing equipment, to be used by medical professionals. All equipment will be installed in public hospitals and laboratories across Nigeria, and will remain in situ once the current COVID-19 pandemic subsides, to be used by medical researchers and clinicians in case of any future outbreaks.
The fund will also be used for training and support to medical professionals/ personnel and volunteers working in coronavirus testing sites across the country, ensuring the mass roll out of effective and robust testing for tens of thousands more Nigerians.
Nigeria has recorded 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and has imposed flight and travel restrictions, as well as producing stringent guidelines for mass gatherings and self-isolation. Support is needed.
“This is the kind of support we need. Identify a problem, run with it and include a sustainability plan in your solution. We are very grateful for this new partnership with 54gene at a critical point in our health security,” said Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
You can also contribute to the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund via [email protected]