Abasi in Time

KGI Alum and 54gene CEO Abasi Ene-Obong Wants to Fix the Racial Imbalance in Health Data

Story taken from Time.com

Born and raised in the Nigerian port city of Calabar, Abasi Ene-Obong remembers the exact moment that changed his life’s direction. Sitting in an introductory genetics class at medical school, in 2003, he heard the professor say that African genetic samples comprised less than 3% of health data bases in the world, creating a stunning vacuum in its ability to detect diseases and develop effective treatments for hundreds of millions of people.

Ene-Obong ditched his plan to become a doctor, and instead left for London, and later Los Angeles, to study genetics, finally earning a master’s degree in business focusing on the bioscience industry, at the Keck Graduate School in California, and a PhD in cancer biology at the University of London.

With that, he launched 54gene in 2019—named for the 54 countries in Africa—with the mission to right the sharp racial imbalance in global health data. Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, and Washington, D.C., the startup was on TIME’s 2019 list of best health innovations.

Three years on, Ene-Obong, 37, says every part of the mission has proved hugely challenging, from raising venture-capital funds to explaining to Big Pharma companies what 54gene is trying to do.

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