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Revolutionising Cancer Care: A Conversation with Yemaachi Biotech’s CEO on Inclusive Oncology

By Henry Duah

Imagine a world where cancer diagnostics and therapeutics are tailored to the genetic diversity of individuals, offering hope and healing to diverse populations worldwide. Yemaachi is turning this vision into reality by leveraging Africa’s rich genetic diversity to develop cutting-edge solutions for cancer diagnosis and cure. Yemaachi Biotech is a visionary biotechnology company at the forefront of precision oncology. Founded in 2020 in Accra, Ghana, Yemaachi is revolutionising cancer detection and treatment through a unique fusion of immunogenomics, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence.

With a mission to redefine cancer care in Africa and beyond, Yemaachi is not just a company; it’s a movement towards equitable access to precision medicine. Yemaachi Biotech is unique in its dedication to inclusive oncology research within Africa. They prioritise patient involvement, data security, and regulatory compliance, fostering collaborations both locally and internationally to drive impactful research and innovation in cancer treatment and precision medicine.

This week we explore groundbreaking cancer research and innovation with Dr. Yaw Bediako, co-founder and CEO of Yemaachi Biotech and unpackYemaachi’s research initiatives, strategic partnerships, and commitment to advancing oncology for the betterment of humanity.

What has been your motivation to become a healthtech entrepreneur and help stay in the game?
I guess I can give two reasons. First of all, I’m personally very motivated to try to build capacity in Africa and a self-sustaining capacity. I’m convinced that the only way to do that is through enterprise, we have to be entrepreneurial, we cannot continue to have all the research in Africa funded by philanthropists from overseas or from overseas governments. But to generate the resources required to invest in our ecosystem, we have to generate businesses, scientific businesses that can generate revenue. So that is the first motivation Africa needs in the tech industry. Additionally, I lost my father to cancer. So I have a personal stake in trying to improve how cancer is diagnosed or treated for people of African descent.

Given Yemaachi’s focus on inclusive oncology research, how does the company involve and engage with patients in its studies and initiatives?
Yemaachi prioritises patient involvement in research by securing informed consent and striving to engage beyond medical data. Efforts vary by project, aiming to understand social determinants of health and collaborating with advocacy groups for community awareness. Currently, all studies recruit African residents, aligning with the company’s focus on inclusive oncology research within the continent.

Conducting clinical research across multiple African countries involves navigating diverse regulatory environments. How does Yemaachi manage regulatory compliance and foster collaboration with regulatory bodies to facilitate its research initiatives?
The regulatory environment is not uniform across Africa. So the way we’ve navigated that is to build expertise in that so we understand the regulatory environments in different countries in which we work. This strategy allows us to ensure that we align with the laws and regulations. We submit the appropriate applications for approval for different kinds of studies. We also work very closely with local partners. In any country we work in, we make sure that we have a local team that understands the landscape locally and can provide guidance and leadership. I think the biggest way we navigate the differences in regulations is by leveraging local patterns.

Can you provide insights into any international collaborations or partnerships the company is engaged in for advancing cancer research and precision medicine beyond the African continent?
Yemaachi Biotech engages in international collaborations with renowned institutions such as The Francis Crick Institute and IQVIA, a global clinical data company. Additionally, partnerships with undisclosed US-based pharmaceutical companies and universities like Morehouse, Cornell, and King’s College London enhance our research endeavours. To sustain these diverse collaborations, strategic relationship management and clear communication channels are prioritized, ensuring alignment of goals and mutual benefit across stakeholders.

What strategies does Yemaachi employ to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of its African Clinical Cancer Research Network?
Yemaachi ensures the long-term sustainability and growth of its African Clinical Cancer Research Network by taking a proactive approach to initiating partnerships and projects. Rather than being passive, we lead the engagement by conceiving project ideas and approaching relevant individuals or institutions. Our focus is on bringing value to these partnerships through the quality of our work and intellectual contributions. By consistently demonstrating our usefulness and earning the respect of our partners, we foster long-term relationships that support the network’s sustainability and growth.

Beyond research, does Yemaachi Biotech have any educational initiatives or programs aimed at building capacity in genomics, oncology, or related fields within the African continent?
We are not an educational institute so we don’t do much training, although we’re instituting an internship program where we provide sort of internship opportunities for young people who are looking to get some skills. You know, it’s unlike an academic institution that is primarily interested in training, that is not our core business but we do offer a limited internship program.

Could you elaborate on the data security and privacy protocols that Yemaachi Biotech has in place to ensure the protection of sensitive information in its extensive cancer bio-database and research studies?
Yemaachi Biotech prioritizes data security by implementing stringent protocols in its digital platform for clinical data collection. The company adheres to best practices for handling health data and personal information, ensuring compliance with local Ghanaian regulations. Plans are underway to achieve full General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) compliance in the near future. Yemaachi Biotech employs various methods to safeguard sensitive data, providing comprehensive protection following existing regulations.

What are some of the challenges Yemaachi has encountered in promoting pan-African cancer research, and how does the company address these challenges to ensure the success of its initiatives?
Yemaachi faces significant challenges in promoting pan-African cancer research, primarily due to limited access to capital and logistical hurdles. Securing funding for research is challenging in Africa’s nascent biotech landscape, and importing research inputs incurs additional costs and delays. Despite these obstacles, Yemaachi is actively seeking solutions to overcome these challenges and ensure the success of our initiatives.

Any advice for entrepreneurs, especially, those looking to go into healthtech and biotech research?
For entrepreneurs venturing into biotech research, the sector poses unique challenges due to its high capital requirements and the difficulty of fundraising, especially in certain regions. To navigate these obstacles, it’s crucial to have a clear vision and business model, refining it iteratively to optimize investor appeal. Focusing on product quality is paramount, as excellence increases the likelihood of securing investment and overcoming the sector’s inherent hurdles.

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