Health Equity Challenges: 54gene wants to address the lack of African genetic data in Clinical Research Trials. Part 2

Challenges in health equity are profound, and there have been real challenges in getting diverse participants into research.

54gene’s CEO, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, professes that “less than 3% of genomic data represented in research is from African populations”. Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong is an article by Walt (August 7, 2022) in TIME Magazine. The company 54gene wants to address the lack of African genetic data (genome) in biopharma research to have the most effective drugs to cure diseases that plague all people. The CEO of 54gene created his company because it represents the efforts of 54 African countries.

When it comes to participating in a clinical trial, on average, it could take two hours to travel to a site you know, which is not located in a convenient spot. Challenges in health equity are profound, and there have been real challenges in getting diverse participants into research. For example, for oncology research, we typically won’t see oncology trials in a retail clinic where manufacturers are deeply interested in how we can help expand access. Cancer trials for patients could last as long as ten years with a minimum of three follow-up visits, and kind of vital signs are fascinating conversations.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, expresses, “we’re not saying that your entire focus should be Africa we are telling you can include Africa in your focus, which could also significantly

impact your bottom line.”. For example, there is a drug used to treat bad cholesterol and a lot of the insight for the work came from people of African descent because the drug targets a rare mutation that is more common in African populations. 54gene has leveraged a state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure to design and develop targeted diagnostics panels to tackle Africa’s low penetration of molecular diagnostics.

Their technology promptly diagnoses various diseases, from cancers to infectious diseases. In addition, 54gene has accurate and lower-cost diagnostic tests to consider specific variants and frequencies in the African population. As a result, 54gene is paving the way for accessible precision medicine for all people of African descent and disrupting the healthcare delivery landscape by empowering patients, providers, and payers, with more accurate and meaningful data. 

54gene’s proprietary “GENIISYS™ platform comprises a large, fast-growing bio- and data-repository of deeply-phenotyped, consented research participants.” The diverse dataset has the potential to power understanding across multiple disease areas of interest, including cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, sickle cell, autoimmune and rare diseases, and infectious diseases. There will be more to hear about this company! The Narrative Matters!

References:

Maynard, N.F. (August 31, 2022). Watch DSN: CVS Health’s Tony Clapsis highlights the importance of clinical research. Watch DSN: CVS Health’s Tony Clapsis highlights the importance of clinical research | Drug Store News


Walt, V. (August 7, 2022). 54gene’s CEO Abasi Ene-Obong Wants to Fix the Racial Imbalance in Health Data. 54gene’s CEO Wants to Fix Health Data’s Racial Imbalance | Time


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