54gene launches a genome sequencing lab to track infectious and non-communicable diseases prevalent in Nigeria


54gene has unveiled its new lab in Lagos State, Nigeria, capable of human whole-genome sequencing and a variety of other scientific investigations.

The new lab will also host a suite of world-class molecular genomics capabilities, including the Illumina Novaseq 6000 and NextSeq 550Dx in a move to enable Africans to conduct genomics research and will be fully operational from January 2021.

According to 54gene’s Founder & CEO, Dr Abasi Ene-Obong said: “Our vision is not just to address the health disparities in Africa but to distinctly advance research in some of the most common and rare diseases that affect the global population. To do this we need to scale our operations and continue to collaborate on cutting edge research. The possibilities are immense and we look forward to expanding this impact even more.”

The new lab was recently inspected by the Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayom.

Designed to facilitate precision medicine for Africans and the global population, 54gene is currently conducting research to discover novel biological insights based on genetic modifiers, by deriving information from its unique and rich data set.

The new lab will allow the company’s researchers to determine the underlying drivers of infectious and noncommunicable diseases prevalent on the African continent as well as genetic variants unique to its population. The new lab strengthens 54gene’s capacity to enable more research that yields insights from the world’s most diverse populations to solve some of the biggest global healthcare challenges.

“This is quite an impressive setup, and I am happy that 54gene has chosen Lagos as its base. I believe this is going to be a mutually beneficial arrangement as Lagos is keen to promote a medical innovation hub in the State,” said Honourable Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Emmanuel Akinola Abayomi. “We will continue to create an enabling environment for the private sector, like 54gene, to flourish, while ensuring that the public’s interests are adequately protected. We look forward to partnering with 54gene and other stakeholders alike to power innovation and a sustainable bio-economy.”

The Molecular Genetics Operations labs and the Biobankwas not built by accident. In July 2019,  54gene announced it had raised a $4.5M seed round to build a world-first biobank for African DNA datasets. During the announcement, the ten six-month-old startup said it would use the funds to build the world’s first African DNA biobank, install electronic data capture systems in the leading tertiary hospitals in Nigeria and expand its world-class teams both in the US and Nigeria, ahead of the company’s expansion plans on the continent.

It went ahead to receive $15M to expand its collaborations, complete the biolab and expand its African Biobank.  It also recently launched a $500,000 Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund to expand Coronavirus testing facilities in the country.

With the biobank complete, 54gene will move next to build the largest database of genomic and phenotypic consented data of Africans. Three months ago, the firm launched its Clinical Program Services (CPS) division to provide clinical development services, intelligence, logistics, and infrastructure to enable the successful conduct of clinical trials in Africa, starting out of Nigeria.