Less than 3% of genetic materials used for global pharmaceutical research come from Africa. This comes as a surprise considering Africa represents a more unique and diverse genetic pool than any other population on the planet.
This is why, in 2019, African genomics start-up 54Gene sought to bridge this divide. So successful has it been that the start-up has secured $45m in funding from various investors and is now at the forefront of bringing genetics to the world.
African genomics start-up 54Gene has implemented the services of Amazon Web Services (AWS) as part of its efforts to realise its promise of bringing precision medicine to Africa and the global population, by bridging the geographical disparity gap evident in global genomics data.
“At present, some parts of the world (usually developed countries) have widely sequenced genomics databases, while others (usually developing countries and particularly the African continent) have far fewer datasets. As genomics grows in its scientific uses (recently playing a key role in understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus), it is important to correct this gap to ensure that scientific discoveries are distributed across all and relevant to all populations around the world,” says Francis Osifo, vice president of 54Gene.
54Gene’s main goal is to address this inequity through its health technology platform, which is now powered by AWS. The company is building diverse datasets to better facilitate scientific discoveries in the field of genomics, as well as enhance diagnostic and treatment outcomes in Africa, and around the world.
“When modern humans originating from Africa wandered and explored the globe, a bottleneck effect was created leaving behind large genetic diversity on the African continent,” says Osifo. “And now, less than 3% of genomic data represented in research is from African populations.
“We are pioneering the inclusion of the African genome in research. We are re-imagining a world where precision medicine is equalised and everyone can live longer.”
Says Robin Njiru Business Lead-East & West Africa at AWS, “AWS has substantial experience in healthcare and medical research around the world, and our technology has powered some incredible innovations in this space in recent years. We believe that 54Gene is the next in these innovative, forward-looking medical research breakthroughs. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world the importance of genomic sequencing, and an entire continental gap in data on this is a massive barrier to making sure any innovations are relevant in an African context. At AWS, we are growing our support for companies that work to bridge such gaps and support innovations that are relevant to the African content and her people.”
54Gene’s Genomics Infrastructure & Insights Ecosystem (GENIISYSTM) platform has highly curated genomic, clinical, and phenotypic data from which they derive insights that lead to innovative medicines and diagnostics. The assets created by and derived from GENIISYSTM are expected to improve the state of healthcare for the entire world.
Despite being at the forefront of this specific technology, 54Gene struggled to find a reliable cloud provider that would consider the company’s ecosystem and assist it through every stage of the company’s growth.
“AWS is highly configurable with robust support,” explains Osifo. “The uptime for their services is a huge plus. And the biggest gain is the fact that there is a solution to every problem.”
After architecting, AWS services were deployed within three weeks, leaving 54Gene able to implement, deploy and manage all of their internal and external facing solutions. This in turn meant that the company has experienced increased efficiencies at a reduced cost almost immediately, while the experience remains seamless for the end-users. “54Gene can now deliver their best output and product while remaining future-proof,” says Osifo.
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“AWS is a perfect fit for our business. It addresses our core needs, allowing us to leverage both the infrastructure, support and technical capabilities as we grow. We are able to leverage cutting-edge technology infrastructure and support to deliver a robust, scalable and reliable experience for our end-users across all our products. At the end of the day, this is how we are trying to ensure that Africa and her people are represented in future genomic scientific developments.”
The list of services deployed includes FSX… Amazon ECR, Amazon Fargate, Amazon RDS Aurora MySQL, EC2, Route 53, S3, ACM, VPC, IAM, SES, WAF, Cognito, GuardDuty, Lambda, MSK, Secrets Manager, Security Hub, SQS, SNS, KMS, Amplify, CloudWatch, CloudTrail.
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