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Ghana startup changing African cancer research

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1 個月前

STORY: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: RESENDING THIS STORY TO CORRECT THAT THE SAMPLES BEING COLLECTED IN OPENING SHOTS ARE BEING SENT TO YEMAACHI BIOTECH AND JOB TITLE OF KAFUI AKAPOK WHO WORKS INDEPENDENTLY TO YEMAACHI BIOTECH.

In the open-air kitchen of a small research clinic in Ghana’s capital Accra, cancer in Africa is being tackled head on.

One of these sample being collected will be sent to Yemaachi Biotech - a home-grown research and diagnostics startup that wants to change African cancer studies forever by finding out how the disease affects people of African descent.

Hard data on cancer in Africa is scarce.

While more than 17% of the world’s population call the continent home, only 2% of genomic study participants are of African descent, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Yemaachi Biotech aims to change that by constructing a first-of-its-kind genomic archive of cancers in Black people from around the world.

Co-founder and CEO Dr. Yaw Bediako.

“We have one of the world's fastest growing burdens of cancer, and we have some of the highest cancer mortality rates of anywhere in the world. So, as much as HIV and malaria are problems, cancer is a huge problem that is actually growing faster than those other problems. I felt that for a new company starting out, we needed to focus on an area that was really important but also less traveled."

It is also one of Ghana’s only labs equipped for molecular analysis.

The team working here are tasked with collecting data they believe will aid the development of medicine for cancer patients throughout the continent and diaspora.

And investors are taking note.

In just over a year, Yemaachi has raised around $3 million in seed funding - mostly from African investors.

Dr. Kafui Akakpo is a pathologist with the Accra-based Pathologists Without Borders.

He is aiding in a study of various kinds of breast cancer affecting Black women, who Breast Cancer Prevention Partners say are disproportionately exposed to the disease.

"Even though breast cancer has been studied extensively throughout the world, the truth is that most of the cases are not Africans. If you look at every study across the world, very few of them are of Africans. What this does is that you come to the African population and study it, and that has effects on Africans and African Americans, and any other group that has a basis in Africa. That's why this is so important. Without it, you don't have enough to relate to African breast cancer.”

Yemaachi is also aiming to sequence every type of childhood cancer in Ghana later this year.

And the start-up has already had some success.

It recently launched Ghana's first home testing kit for human papillomavirus - one of the leading causes of cervical cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than a third of global cervical cancer deaths occur in Africa.

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