Nigeria’s 54gene launches mobile COVID-19 testing lab

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Nigerian e-health startup 54gene has partnered First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and the Ogun State Government to pilot its first COVID-19 mobile laboratory, aimed at expanding testing across the country.

Launched in 2019, 54gene is a research, services and development company founded that utilises human genetic data from diverse African populations to improve the development, availability and efficacy of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population.

The startup recently raised a US$15 million Series A funding round, and had already launched a fund of its own to raise money for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Now it has joined forces with FCMB as well as other partners such as Argentil Capital Partners, Arnergy Solar, Tempohousing and Wild Fusion to launch the mobile COVID-19 testing lab.

“In carrying out a situational analysis, it became clear that there was a need for infrastructure to support an increase in testing capacity in Nigeria. However, setting up a permanent structure requires significant cost, manpower and an extensive period of construction time. Speed was of the essence, as we saw the need to increase nationwide testing capabilities, isolate positive cases and thus help flatten the curve by breaking the chain of transmission,” 54gene said.

“Our mobile lab removes the restriction imposed by permanent buildings and allows us to quickly offer our services to multiple states due to the ease of transport and the mobile capability it provides.”

The 40-foot structure was built with container technology and provides a plug-and-play feature that eliminates the logistics of shipping samples to another location for processing. 

“This reduces turnaround times for test results and allows clinicians to manage and treat patients accurately, sooner rather than later. The environmentally-friendly cargotecture solution can also be reused to serve other functions for urban spaces,” said 54gene.

The mobile laboratory is fully kitted out with vital instruments including an autoclave, biosafety cabinet, centrifuge, heating blocks, vortexes, pipettes, and PCR machines to support COVID-19 testing. 

“We have also helped build capacity by equipping molecular scientists with the necessary skill set required to handle the instruments in the mobile lab as they would in regular molecular testing laboratories,” the company said.

The first round of testing utilising the mobile laboratory will be carried out in Ogun State over the coming weeks.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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