SEE ME BE ME: Dr Elsa Zekeng on representation in research!

Dr Elsa Zekeng on representation in research!

Dr Elsa Zekeng is a scientist and entrepreneur, with a Ph.D. in infectious disease. She is also the founder of SökerData, a startup with a vision to increase diversity in clinical trials.


See Me Be Me is a podcast that spotlights diverse talent across any and every career path.


I’m a scientist, and health equity has been the running theme through almost everything that I’ve done. I did my PHD in infectious diseases in global health, focussing on collecting biomarkers for Influenza A diagnostics. I used samples from Senegal in west Africa, and samples from here in the UK, London and Liverpool. The whole premise was, how does genetics affect the biomarkers that we find?

At the moment for genetic research, genetic data from Black and minority communities comes up to about 4%, while the rest is white European. If the data that is being used to create medications, drugs, clinical trials, everything in between is predominantly white, that means our genetics are not being represented, and that definitely means that the drugs that are being created put us at a disadvantage.

Over COVID, I did quite a few talks, and one question that kept coming up was ‘What was the clinical trial representation of Black and Minority Ethnic communities?”. And it was extremely low. And then we saw hesitancy to take up the vaccine.

SökerData was set up to increase that data collection, increase participation of Black and Minority Ethnic communities within the clinical trial space, and making sure that companies have access to that data when they are creating vaccines, medications, and all the rest.

Last year the FDA put out a statement where they’re now ensuring that pharma and biotech companies make sure that they have a specific representation for Black and Minority Ethnic communities when they’re submitting approvals for drugs – that’s now come from the top!


If you’d like to hear more about Dr Zekeng’s experience as a Black woman in STEM, her career beyond academia, her entrepreneurship and career beyond STEM, check out the full SEE ME BE ME episode, below!