The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) through the Pathogen Genomics Initiative (PGI), on Wednesday, 6th April, 2022 donated Genomic Sequencing Equipment and Reagents to the Institute. This is to support the adaption and implementation of the integration of pathogen genomics and bioinformatics into public health surveillance, outbreak detection, investigations to improve disease control and prevention in the African sub-region.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu disclosed that the genomic sequencing equipment will be a great game-changer as the Institute will now have the capacity to sequence two thousand (2000) genomes within a week.
“These equipment are very crucial for what we do. And it will enhance the mandate of the Institute. The first of which is to conduct research into diseases of public health importance not only to Ghana but to the West Africa sub-region and to the African continent as a whole. And this requires a very important understanding of pathogen biology, genomics, evolution, and emergence of variants.
Prof. Yeboah-Manu averred that with the help of the sequencing equipment, the Institute will be able to determine and design interventions that are accurate and precise. Adding that “with this information, we will be able to design the needed rapid diagnostics, vaccines as well as medicines for the control and prevention of not only infectious diseases but also non-communicable diseases”.
According to her, the capacity built by the Africa CDC at the Institute can be considered as one of the best sequencing hubs and was responsible for Ghana, Togo, Benin, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Our vision is to integrate pathogen genomics into routine public health surveillance systems for rapid and timely response to infectious disease threats in Africa through access to pathogen genomics technology, expertise, and responsible data sharing”, she recounted.
On his part, Dr. Sofonias Tessema, Program Lead for the Pathogen Genomics Initiative at the Africa CDC applauded the Institute’s efforts to be the first testing centre in the region at the peak of the COVID-19. This he said demonstrated commitment to responding to issues of public health importance.
“Being at the centre of the COVID-19 response in Africa, sequencing of genomes is one essential part of that response to identify and detect variants that are circulating within the continent. So, the Africa CDC established a continental program to build capacity for laboratories to support sequencing,” he averred.
“In addition to the response in Ghana, Noguchi has been instrumental in supporting countries in the sub-region, including Togo, Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So, this support is not only for Ghana, but for the sub-region,” he said.
According to Dr. Sarah Mwangi, Africa CDC Representative, the Africa CDC Pathogen Genomics Initiative has been supporting a continental coordinated approach to maximize the benefits of pathogen genomics for more effective outbreak preparedness, prevention and response, and for the control and elimination of endemic diseases in Africa.
“This continental approach encompasses regional hubs in five geopolitical regions, one of which is the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research. While the Africa CDC Pathogen Genomics Initiative has been coordinating laboratory upgrades by equipping the laboratories with essential equipment and support the deployment of technical staff the NMIMR has been at the forefront of facilitating genome sequencing of SARs-CoV-2, training, knowledge-sharing and technical support to member states in the West African region.” Dr. Mwangi stated.