The Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), a philanthropic endeavor of businessman Aliko Dangote, has tasked and contracted 54Gene, a Nigerian health startup that specializes in molecular diagnostics and research, to conduct coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing in the Nigerian state of Kano. The Foundation wants 54gene to carry out 400 tests per day capacity in a laboratory in Kano.

54Gene is accredited by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and has already set up labs in Lagos and in Ogun States.

“CACOVID (Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19) is already setting up a 310 bed isolation center at Sani Abacha stadium in Kano. We are extending that capacity by another 150 beds at the Abubakar Imam Urology Centre in Kano, which is being converted into an isolation center now. These two centers will be operational pending the final validation by the Infection Prevention and Control team, which we expect will be completed in the coming days,” said Aliko Dangote.

Opening of the COVID-19 mobile laboratory in Kano Nigeria.

Using a health startup in Nigeria to increase COVID-19 testing

The lab, which was inaugurated on 3 May 2020 in Kano, will start with a testing capacity of 400 tests a day, increasing to 1,000 tests a day by 10 May 2020. The lab will be set up at Muhammadu Buhari Hospital in Kano, where an isolation center is currently operational.

According to Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, founder and Chief Executive Officer of 54gene, the the 40ft lab structure built with container technology, provides a unique plug-and-play solution. The mobile laboratory is kitted with vital instruments including an autoclave, bio-safety cabinet, centrifuge, heating blocks, vortexes, pipettes, and PCR machines to support COVID-19 testing.

“Our mobile lab is fully equipped with all the vital instruments required for COVID-19 testing, and allows us to quickly offer our services to multiple states due to the ease of transport. Its unique plug and play feature eliminates the logistics of shipping samples to another location for the processing which reduces turnaround times for test results and allows clinicians to manage and treat patients accurately, sooner rather than later."

Public and private partnership

In 2019 54gene announced that it had secured a $4,5 million in seed funding. The seed funding round saw participation from Y Combinator, Fifty Years, Better Ventures, KdT Ventures, Hack VC and Techammer, among others.

The startup has said that the funding will help it build the world’s first African DNA biobank, install electronic data capture systems in the leading tertiary hospitals in Nigeria and expand its world-class teams both in the USA and Nigeria. It appears that they could be well on their mission as they have started with helping the Kano state in Nigeria with the building of this lab.

54gene mobile laboratory for COVID-19 in Kano, Nigeria.

“There’s no doubt we started on a shaky foundation, with assistance of ADF, we can see that a friend in deed is a friend in need. We are very grateful for the mobile testing Centre witch will launch with 400 samples per day and after a week, increase to 1,000 tests  per day." said Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano State Governor.

“It is now left for us to intensify efforts to collect samples. We will ensure that all that 44 Local Government Council have collection centres.  Here in the metropolitan local government, we will have 100s of collection centres because this is where the majority of the population is”.

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