Ghanaian health startup Yemaachi Biotech says it is making strides in cancer research by constructing a first of its kind genomic archive of cancers in black people from across the globe which experts say would solve the crisis of accessing data on African cancer patients.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that over 17 percent of the world’s population resides in Africa, however, only two percent of genomic study participants are of African descent.
Kafui Akakpo, a Ghanaian pathologist currently focusing on cancer research alongside Yemaachi says the strides made by the Ghanaian startup will change African cancer studies forever.
“If you look at every study across the world very few of them are Africans,” said Akapo, adding, “What this does is that you come to the African population and study it which effects Africans and African Americans or any group with a basis in Africa.”
Yaw Bediako, the Chief Executive Officer, and Co-Founder of Yemaachi supports Akakpo’s sentiments, further expressing disappointment in Africa’s approach towards allocating funds for healthcare.
“The reason Yemaachi is looking at cancer is partly because no one else is looking at cancer in Africa,” said Bediako, adding, “Majority of our [Africa] research is focused on infectious diseases and yet we have one of the world’s fastest growing burdens of cancer and some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the world.”
Having recently developed Ghana’s first home testing kit for Human Papillomavirus, one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, the Ghanaian startup has attracted over $4 million in investment, mostly from African investors and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Emmanuella Amaoko, Yemaachi’s Clinical Affairs Officer says will be invested in their research towards developing Africa’s first cure for cancer.
“The treatment of cancer is not always going to be in the clinic but in the lab,” says Amaoko, adding, “Most treatments were started on a lab table and if we need to race for a cure in Africa for Africans then we have to start it here.”