The Africa Centre for Diseases Control (Africa CDC) has donated three Genomic sequencing equipment to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research to allow early detection of new variants and improve data in Ghana.
The equipment included the Mini Iron, Hybrid Iron, Nextseq 2000, and reagents sequencing machines as well as technical support to enhance the performance of the Genomic surveillance laboratory network at the Institute.
The donation formed part of the Africa CDC Pathogen Genomics Initiative, which seeks to support institutions in the continental laboratory network for SARS-Cov2 in an endeavour to adopt best practices and techniques to do sequencing locally.
Professor Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, the NMIMR Director, expressed appreciation to Africa CDC for the support over the period especially during the pandemic.
She said these machines would give the Institute the capacity to sequence 2000 genomes in a week.
Prof Yeboah-Manu stated that the Africa CDC during the pandemic aided all the genomic sequencing that were carried out at Noguchi for the COVID viruses.
She further explained that with the capacity that Africa CDC had built at Noguchi, it is considered as one of the best sequencing hubs and was responsible for Ghana, Togo, Benin, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“In addition to that, we have also been able to facilitate training of seven Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, plus Mauritius, with funding from the World Health Organization,” adding that, “this would further build capacity within the West Africa continent instead of relying on other countries for genomic surveillance” she stated.
The Director noted that COVID-19 pandemic made people appreciate the various variants, the mutations among others, and as such what was required now was a continuous survey for the emergence of new variants and the machines would assist in that regard.
She noted that even though Ghanaians had been advised to take COVID-19 vaccination seriously, they would continue to monitor for new variants with the help of the machines for proper analysis to inform decision making.
Dr Sofonias Tessema, the Programme Lead for Pathogen Genomics, handing over the equipment, said the equipment would strengthen the capacity of Ghana to be able to identify variants, monitor the circulation of variants and understand how the virus is evolving.
He said the support to Ghana was for the region and the continent at large to increase the overall capacity to generate effective data for decision making.
The detection of variants is very critical to determine the efficacy of vaccines, whether the vaccine is working or not, Dr Tessema said.
“This equipment’s capacities are needed to look at the virus at a molecular level and see whether the vaccines, diagnostics, and responses are working. It is an essential component of the overall pandemic response and this capacity will also improve the research and development of new vaccines, new diagnostics for other pathogens,” he added.