Researchers Call for Synergy in Strengthening Genomic Surveillance

ISN Medical hosted the first Illumina day event themed ‘Unlocking the power of genomics in Nigeria,’ at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Abuja.
ISN Medical hosts first Illumina day event themed ‘Unlocking the power of genomics in Nigeria,’ at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Abuja.

Researchers have called for the need to build on existing efforts to bolster the advancement of healthcare in Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general.

This call was made by researchers when ISN Medical hosted the first Illumina Day event themed ‘Unlocking the power of genomics in Nigeria,’ at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Abuja.

Genomic surveillance is the process of constantly monitoring pathogens and analyzing their genetic similarities and differences.

ISN Medical – a leading healthcare solutions provider in Nigeria has provided equipment, technical and consultative support for over 6000 healthcare and research facilities across Nigeria, with a presence in other African countries, including Ghana and The Gambia.

The researchers cut across several health agencies, including the Africa Centre for Disease Control, National Centre for Disease Control, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, International Research Centre of Excellence, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, West African Genetic Medicine Centre – Ghana, Pasteur Centre, Yaoundé, Cameroon, amongst others.

Speaking on creating an enabling environment for genomics to thrive, Executive Director of IHVN, Prof. Alash’le Abimiku, highlighted the importance of synergy between the different research groups, adding that various groups of genomic researchers already existed in Nigeria and Africa.

Abimiku noted that a National Genomic Project should be one that built on the existing work of researchers within the clime.

Prof. Solomon Ofori-Acquah noted that there was the importance of African researchers taking ownership of their data and collaborating with data scientists, using tools like python to extract insights from African genetic data.

“There is the need to educate the public about the benefits of genomics in healthcare, leveraging the influence of local authorities like the clergy and traditional rulers,” Ofori-Acquah said.

Discussing the challenges and successes of genomic surveillance in Africa, Deputy Director of ACEGID, Prof. Folarin Onikepe, acknowledged hurdles such as data analysis expertise and policy weaknesses.

Despite these challenges, she highlighted significant achievements such as Nigeria’s capability to locally sequence all COVID-19 strains during the pandemic, eliminating the need to send samples abroad.

“Awareness on some of the wins within the ecosystem such as Nigeria’s ability to sequence all COVID-19 strains in-country during the COVID pandemic, without having to send the samples abroad,” Onikepe said.

Also, Dr. Rajana Bhattacharjee, a Senior Scientist and Molecular Breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, showcased the impact of genomics on yam production for nutritional, economic, and pharmaceutical purposes.

Bhattacharjee emphasised the importance of research to enhance the sustainability and productivity of vital crops.

Founded in 1998, Illumina has continued to foster collaborations among changemakers in the healthcare ecosystem to find answers to life’s biggest questions and broaden the positive impact of genomics around the world.