ThABI’s GapSummit and VoT Experience


The Beginning

The ThABI team brought together by the GapSummit 2016 hail from two African countries with Adam, Dapo, Lukman and Voke from Nigeria and Nani originally from Senegal but working from Tanzania. Dapo is a PhD student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Adam an MSc Student at the University of Glasgow, and an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, Voke a PhD candidate at University of Lagos, Lukman, the managing director of inqaba biotec West Africa and Nani a molecular biologist at Africa Rice Centre, Tanzania.

What we had in common, besides our interests in molecular biology and passions for biotech development in Africa, was the desire to enlighten the rest of the world about biotechnological and general scientific developments on the continent.

The VoT Competition

The organizers of the GapSummit did very well in putting us all together. As we all operate in the African biotechnology environment, we have a good understanding of the challenges and areas which require improvement. As biotech is in its infancy on the continent, our idea for the VoT competition, if successful, was aimed at promoting biotechnology and its applications in Africa. After brainstorming, a series of ideas came up, from biotech education to mobile biotech labs to bio-innovation competition. Eventually, ABIP was born.

ABIP (African Biotechnology Industry Park) is poised to fill the essential biotechnology gaps in Africa, which include insufficient capacities (both human and infrastructural), inadequate education, and low investment in research and innovation funding.

The Metamorphosis

After our feat at the Gapsummit, we thought the name ABIP did not capture our goal for biotech on the continent. The team then revisited a previous name, which was suggested during the brainstorming stage: ThABI. ThABI stands for The African Biotechnology Innovation Initiative. It is also a South African name meaning beautiful.

ThABI aims to connect African biotech innovators with potential investors around the world and at the same time create awareness about biotechnology in Africa. The first phase of this initiative is the Virtual Innovation Platform (VIP), which is a web platform that will connect innovative ideas with commercial potential from African researchers, with investors. The ultimate goal is commercializing these ideas or derived-products.

The second phase is the Biotech Industry Park (BIP), which is a physical park with well-equipped biotech laboratories and offices where innovative research and development shall take place. The BIP will also include an Innovation Incubator (II) where research findings will be transformed into products, and a Business Accelerator (BA), which will help in securing capital and investors enabling these products to be launched successfully. This will bring about a boom in biotech innovations and significantly boost the bioeconomy in Africa. This initiative will be launched in Nigeria after which we hope to gradually extend to the rest of Africa.

I was particularly impressed by the global scope of the event with participants from diverse origins and backgrounds and the number of young CEOs/founders of bio-enterprises among the participants. This made me reflect on bio-entrepreneurship in Africa and how African R&D institutes could develop it to create jobs and wealth. ~Adam AbdulRahman Idoko

Our GapSummit Experience

The Gapsummit gave us the opportunity to listen to exciting and stimulating talks while connecting with biotech leaders from different parts of the world. It was a very exciting summit and enabled valuable interactions on finding ways to close biotech gaps and improve the bioeconomy worldwide.

Having come from Africa, where the bioeconomy is still relatively underdeveloped, the GapSummit provided us with the opportunity to explore possible ways of stimulating the growth of biotechnology in Africa. The VoT competition provided an environment for us to present our idea on how to bridge one of the gaps in biotechnology in Africa and we were very happy to be runners-up in the competition. This gave us more motivation to bring this idea, ThABI to fruition in the nearest possible time, and we are very thankful to GBR for the opportunity to have been a part of this great event.

The Future

We aim to launch ThABI as soon as possible and we are confident that it will stimulate research in biotechnology in Africa and open up a whole new frontier for commercialization of research, improving the bioeconomy in the continent. Naturally, we have discovered some overlooked areas in our original proposal and with the help of our advisory board members especially Prof Alan Barrell, these areas are being improved and developed further.

A bit about the ThABI team:

Adam AbdulRahman Idoko – I am a current MSc Biotechnology student at the University of Glasgow, and I am currently focused on the emerging inter-disciplinary field of synthetic biology. I am also an Assistant Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. I am very passionate about the potentials of biotech in our world especially in Africa and I am particularly passionate about how biotech can improve how we combat infectious diseases and epidemics in our society.

Adedapo Adediji – I am a PhD student at the University of Ibadan and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria.

Khady Nani Dramé – Born and raised in Senegal, I completed my studies in France (BSc, MSc and PhD) with a major in molecular plant physiology. I currently work at Africa Rice Center as a molecular biologist focusing on rice improvement for abiotic stress tolerance using molecular tools. What brings me joy and fulfillment, aside from exciting research findings, is contributing to personal and professional growth of people around me.

Lukman Aroworamimo – I see myself as Pan-African as I do business in several African countries. Born in Nigeria, I moved to South Africa in 2004 for my BSc in Biotechnology Management. Upon completion of my undergraduate program, I joined inqaba biotec, a genomics company based in Pretoria as an intern. In 2011, I moved back to Nigeria to setup the West African subsidiary of our company which I now co-own manage.

Voke Toye – I am a change agent, very passionate about science and the business of biotechnology. In 2003 I undertook a Masters in Biomedical Technology at the University of Calgary, Alberta Canada. While at Canada, I gained experience in commercializing scientific innovations working with University Technologies International Inc. as a medical and life sciences intern, carrying out market research for a novel research device. In 2005, I returned to Nigeria and founded Biologix Support Services Ltd when I discovered the molecular /biotech laboratories didn’t have the needed support. In 2008 I received a GoldmanSAchs Scholarship for a program in entrepreneurial management at the Lagos Business School (LBS) in Nigeria. I have just completed my PhD at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. In collaboration with the Global Health Workshops Group, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, I have initiated molecular biology workshops with my department (Cell Biology and Genetics) at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. To date we have held 2 workshops on DNA basics and we are preparing for a bioinformatics workshop this summer. 

Categories: Blog

Tags: GapSummit 2016, Leaders of Tomorrow, Biotechnology, Research & Innovation Gap

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