Nigerian genomics research, services and development startup 54gene has launched a US$500,000 fund to tackle the current challenges around testing for COVID-19 in the country.
Founded in 2019 by Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, 54gene utilises human genetic data to improve the development, availability and efficacy of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population.
54gene opened the fund by donating US$150,000, and within 24 hours secured an additional US$350,000 from partners including Union Bank. The money raised will help increase COVID-19 testing capacity in Nigeria 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.
Ongoing discussions with other Nigerian institutions are currently taking place, as the company looks to raise enough to accelerate and expand to up to 5,000 tests per day. By intensifying the testing process for COVID-19, 54gene and funding partners plan to help minimise the spread of the infection.
The startup is also making a call for a COVID-19 workforce trained in using qPCR instruments and other molecular diagnostics methods, with the expectation that monies raised will be channelled towards recruiting these people for a period of time to support existing public laboratories.
Working in unison with the NCDC and other stakeholders, 54gene’s team expects to start deploying the fund within days, purchasing vital testing equipment, to be used by medical professionals.
“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,” Ene-Obong said.
“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.”
Those wishing to contribute to the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund should contact Nigeriacovid19fund@54gene.com.