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Investor community backs start-up of Bermudian geneticist

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Carika Weldon, PHD, owner of CariGenetics

CariGenetics, the world’s first Caribbean-focused and only solo Black female-founded genomics start-up company, has successfully raised $1.2 million with assistance from the Bermuda Investor Community, which brings local investment opportunities to qualified individual investors.

The company was founded in 2022 by Carika Weldon, a Bermudian biochemist and geneticist, to create an improved understanding of non-European genomes and improve global human health.

Dr Weldon said: “A lack of diversity in genomics data contributes to misdiagnoses, inaccurate tests, therapeutic drugs that do not work for most of the world’s population and missed opportunities for new treatments.

“The majority of the global genomic database is from those of European descent, a demographic that only represents approximately 15 per cent of the world population. This means approximately 85 per cent of the world is under-represented in the database currently used to design therapeutic drugs.”

Dr Weldon told The Royal Gazette last night the important work could have a major impact on future treatments because it involved research in a previously overlooked area.

She said: “Even presenting these ideas to investors, they are asking, ‘Oh is there a market for this in the Caribbean?’ I have to explain that this is not about the Caribbean. This is about everyone. The Caribbean is just the melting pot of the world when it comes to genetics.”

In a statement, she added: “By addressing this gross racial inequity in genomics, we can transform healthcare with tailored diagnosis, stronger prevention and personalised medicine for most, if not all, diseases.

“The Caribbean is the best solution for controlled, efficient and cost-effective clinical studies on an accessible and variant-enriched population. Although only 0.5 per cent of the world population, the Caribbean is the only place with traces of DNA from all over the world due to the history of enslavement, indentured servants and colonialism.

“For this reason, the Caribbean presents the perfect sample to give maximum diversity and impact for global advances in precision medicine. Importantly, CariGenetics will provide information which will help deliver better long-lasting health outcomes for people in the region and beyond.

“Our work also generates high-skilled science employment opportunities in the region. As such, it is very important to us that our initial working capital funding round has proven successful with backing from local investors.

“Raising $1.2 million in 100 days has been an emotional roller-coaster but gives me validation that the leap of faith I took to start this company was the right decision.

“The Bermuda Investor Community played a crucial part in supporting us to raise this capital by providing clear guidance and ongoing support for us as a start-up and myself as a new entrepreneur.”

Dr Weldon also told The Royal Gazette last night that this fundraising round will continue through to its planned April close.

“But because of the success of the round”, she told us, ”we have increased our staff from four full-time Bermudians to five.“

Caroline McGill, chairwoman of the Bermuda Investor Community, said: “We are so excited for Dr Weldon and her team. The work of CariGenetics is important in addressing inequity in healthcare provision and addressing health inequalities in our island community and beyond.

“We are very proud to have played our small part in helping Bermuda’s 2022 Woman of the Year to establish and grow her business. We look forward to supporting Dr Weldon through future capital rounds.”

Ms McGill added: “We continue to see strong demand for investment from entrepreneurial businesses across a range of deal sizes and sectors.

“We hope to see many more investors contact us for more information at enquiries@investorcommunity.bm or register on our platform to make the most of our publicly available and privately marketed investment opportunities.”

The Bermuda Investor Community is a social enterprise that charges investors nothing and recycles all of its profits into the Ignite entrepreneurial accelerator programme (which is operated under a common charitable trust parent entity), with the aim of creating a self-sustaining ecosystem for all entrepreneurial businesses in Bermuda.

The platform is open to qualified investors and to all businesses which are contributing to the growth of the Bermuda economy, and not just those who are graduates of Ignite.

Carika Weldon, left, and Duranda Greene, president of the Bermuda College, at the announcement of CariGenetics last October (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
The Bermuda Investor Community platform illustrates the successful capital raise (Image supplied)
Caroline McGill, executive chairwoman of the Bermuda Investor Community (File photograph)

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Published March 31, 2023 at 7:44 am (Updated April 01, 2023 at 8:09 am)

Investor community backs start-up of Bermudian geneticist

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