Our Vice President, Clinical and Regulatory Affairs, Kemi Williams, shares some of her personal highlights from her one year journey with 54gene.
When I learnt of 54gene’s vision to close the disparity gap in healthcare by advancing precision medicine in Africa, I realised immediately that there was an alignment between the organization’s vision and my long-term aspiration to contribute to the healthcare ecosystem in Africa. It was this intersection in goals that became the major catalyst in my decision to join this groundbreaking endeavour called 54gene. I believe that my dream to help address healthcare inequities in Africa can be realized by designing and conducting clinical trials that are more inclusive of Africans, and establish the safety and efficacy of medical products in Africans and the global population. The ultimate goal is to enable better clinical outcomes for all patients currently underrepresented in clinical research by addressing the disparity in trial participation and ensuring that trial designs support the generation of clinical utility evidence that benefit a diverse population.
Upon joining 54gene, my immediate focus was to develop the processes and systems that would guide how we run clinical studies, attract and develop the talents that would do this great work, and establish relationships with key stakeholders within the country that would enable our work. The decision to establish these three pillars (people, processes, partners) was largely driven by the need to ensure that we were laying the foundation to run scientifically-sound, inclusive and ethical clinical trials that align with local and global regulations on the conduct of trials. Bringing key partners into the fold was a high priority, along with strategic plans to engage them, and we continue to drive this priority. Most of all, I was excited about establishing another business segment that would contribute to 54gene’s success in the biotechnology industry.
With 54gene’s vision to equalize precision medicine on the continent and the world, my current interests are geared towards our involvement in building the capacity to conduct research effectively on the continent; validating new medical products developed from the insights we are uncovering from our early stage research; and generating clinical and real-world evidence that will drive positive clinical outcomes in all patients. Alongside laying the proper foundation to run innovative clinical research, I am committed to contributing to the development of unified regulatory guidelines on research on the continent, as a key element for fostering more inter-continental research in the region.
Also important is my interest in leveraging my years of organizational development skill sets in supporting 54gene’s evolution as it grows into a powerhouse biotech company in Africa.
As a US employee working mostly remotely, I haven’t spent a lot of time in person with the team in Nigeria. But during a visit in September 2020, I had the opportunity to spend time with some colleagues after work and got to know them more personally. It was truly amazing to feel their energy, passion and focus toward the company’s mission. Coupled with their warmth and fun spirit, the memory of that evening never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Being a Genie, there is a lot to be proud of, especially with the rapid growth the company has experienced in the past year. Personally, I am most proud of the launch of our Clinical Program Services (CPS) business segment and our first partnership deal last August. Clinical research is a complex enterprise that requires a good grasp of science and a thorough understanding of regulations, processes, stakeholders, infrastructural needs in a region, and how to pull all necessary resources together. With unwavering commitment and dedication, we were able to commence our first clinical research project after 6 months of planning and preparation. Under any normal circumstance, it would have taken longer.
In former positions working at several global biopharmaceutical companies, I drove for more research contributions in Africa. I worked to reach agreements with global healthcare organizations and regulatory agencies to help facilitate clinical research projects on the continent. 54gene has brought me closer to my dream of contributing to the healthcare system in Nigeria and Africa.
My hope is that 54gene achieves its mission to bridge the gap in healthcare delivery and advance healthcare in Africa. It is an honor to be part of such a revolutionary mission. I look forward to conducting more ground-breaking research on the continent, and to our CPS business growing significantly over the next years.
To thrive at 54gene or any company in general, it is important to know your ‘why’- what drives you as a person. It is important to figure out your purpose. Once you figure it out, “it” allows you to work through the potential ups and downs you would face, and continue to drive forward and achieve your dreams.