Today, the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer’s University, announced that it will collaborate with Illumina, a global leader in sequencing and array-based technologies, on a joint workforce development training academy, with the objective of increasing Africa’s genomics capacity.
In February, ACEGID and Illumina signed a memorandum of understanding, and will work towards an agreement to leverage the existing pathogen Genomics and Bioinformatics Bootcamp programme at ACEGID, to set up an ambitious training programme targeting 1,000 young African researchers and scientists in Genomics and Bioinformatics between March 2023 and December 2025. This will significantly increase the supply of qualified technical workforce for next-generation sequencing wet lab management, bioinformatics, big data analytics and advanced artificial intelligence/machine learning applications.
The objective is to establish a Genomics and Bioinformatics training Academy within ACEGID at Redeemer’s University, Ede, Nigeria. Illumina and ACEGID will also explore the implementation of a “mobile lab-in-container” that will enable real-time and on-the-move sequencing for outbreak responses in West Africa. This new programme fits into ACEGID’s SENTINEL pandemic preparedness and response programme of identifying pathogens with pandemic potentials in the field before they can wreak havoc.
“This new cooperation with Illumina is in complete alignment with the mandate of ACEGID, which is to train a critical mass of young African scientists that will use genomics tools and technologies to address public health challenges in Africa,” said Prof. Christian Happi, the Director of ACEGID.
“We share a collective goal with ACEGID of extending the reach of genomic technologies and their impacts for patients,” said Susan Tousi, Chief Commercial Officer of Illumina. “Africa has the greatest genetic diversity of any continent, and this opportunity to contribute to the future of accessing that diversity for the benefit of human health is one Illumina is proud to support.”
The two organizations will also work towards collaborations for pharmacogenomics (the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs) and precision oncology (the treatment of cancers based on the specific genes that cause cancerous growth in a patient) for Africans.
“Making precision medicine a reality for all populations is core to Illumina’s mission to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome,” said Illumina Chief Executive Officer Francis DeSouza. “Today, only 2% of genomic data comes from African individuals, and we’re committed to changing that. It begins with empowering local scientists and researchers with tools, resources, and training on the power of genomics. Our work with Prof. Happi and ACEGID builds on our goal to rapidly expand sequencing capabilities and capacity for all people in Africa, and will impact every area of precision medicine, from drug development to cancer screening, therapy selection and monitoring.”
Prof. Happi added, “What is unique about this cooperation is that both Illumina and ACEGID are agreeing to put in place the necessary infrastructure for training in genomics, research and innovation that is going beyond infectious diseases to also address the issues of non-communicable diseases.”
This cooperation aims to be a landmark in the African genomics and public health space; addressing the needs for both human resources development and infrastructure for proper training to enable increased capacity for genomics on the continent.
Scientific Communications Officer, ACEGID