Nigerian health and biotech startup 54Gene has raised $500,000 for a fund aimed at improving Nigeria’s capacity to carry out tests fro COVID-19.
Known as the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Support Fund – this fund will enable the ramping up of for the testing of the virus by up to 1000 additional tests a day, says the 54Gene.
The fund will be used to buy testing instruments, biosafety cabinets, personal protective equipment, and other materials to ensure the safety of health workers and caregivers who are at the frontlines of Nigeria’s response effort.
54Gene is still fundraising in the hopes of raising testing capacity to 5000 tests per day.
Founded in 2019, 54Gene has gained praise for being an “out-of-box” business capable of putting Africa on the global healthcare map, says Tech Cabal. The startup had miraculously secured a $4.5-million seed funding only 7 months after it launched – this sum was raised by investors like YCombinator, Fifty Years, Better Ventures, KdT Ventures, Hack VC and Techammer.
The company’s main objective has been to create the largest biobank of pan-African DNA on Earth. A mission that is critical to the impact of drug development, disease detection and quality of life on the continent.
As for the COVID-19 Testing Support Fund, 54Gene launched it on Thursday with $150,000. Very quickly it reached half a million dollars, especially with a boost from donors like Union Bank, a first-generation Nigerian financial institution.
54Gene has given management of the fund to the Nigeria Cente for Disease Control (NCDC) to enable more testing to be carried out across the country. The NCDC will work with 54Gene and other stakeholders to begin the purchasing of necessary equipment and materials within the next few days.
These materials will be installed within public hospitals and laboratories across the country. They will remain there after the pandemic passes, in the case of future outbreaks.
54Gene CEO, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, 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.”
“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,” says Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of the NCDC.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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