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Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ: ILMN) today announced a collaboration with  54gene, a health technology company whose mission is to advance precision medicine capabilities in Africa through research, advanced molecular diagnostics and clinical programs. The partnership will support the establishment of a new genetics facility in Lagos, Nigeria, equipped with a suite of Illumina’s cutting-edge sequencing and high-density microarray technology platforms, which will generate genetic information for health research and drug development.

Africa contains more genetic diversity than any other continent because the African genome is the oldest human genome. Yet it is estimated that fewer than 3% of the genomes analysed come from Africans, making it a potentially rich source of new genetic information for health and drug discovery research, which 54gene intends to leverage as a global research resource while ensuring Africans benefit from cutting edge medical innovations.

Paula Dowdy, SVP, General Manager EMEA, Illumina said, “It’s incredibly important to ensure equitable access to genomic sequencing technology across the world so that genomes can be interpreted in the context of global diversity. Through partnerships such as this with 54gene, we aim to remove barriers of access to sequencing and expand the benefits of genomics to as many people as possible.”

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54gene Founder and CEO Dr Abasi Ene-Obong said, “The addition of Illumina’s cutting-edge technology to our research and diagnostic capabilities is a critical step for 54gene in fulfilling our mission of equalising precision medicine. This is part of our wider commitment to building capacity and infrastructure in Africa, which will allow us to significantly expand genomics research, while also improving health outcomes on the continent. Alongside our many partners in the African medical and scientific community, we want to make advanced molecular diagnostics more accessible to the region, while creating hundreds of skilled jobs in molecular biology and bioinformatics.”

Through the partnership, African samples stored in 54gene’s de-identified biobank will be genotyped, sequenced and analysed without the need to send samples overseas, reflecting Illumina’s commitment to enabling Africa to expand its genomic capabilities. Having local infrastructure will reduce costs and turnaround time for test results. Illumina will also deliver its renowned training to support the use of its sequencing and microarray equipment and ensure ongoing support for 54gene’s growing team of molecular scientists.

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