ACEGID Strengthens National Capacity for Analysis…

PRESS RELEASE: ACEGID Strengthens National Capacity for Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Data

EDE, NIGERIA, August 17, 2021

The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) has started an intensive hands-on bioinformatics workshop on the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomic and contextual data. The two-weeks training aims to equip scientists from 11 public health laboratories across Nigeria with the skills needed to analyse and interpret the huge data generated from genomic sequencing of the virus that causes Covid-19.

As part of its mandate to build genomics capacity in Nigeria, ACEGID is hosting the workshop through a grant from the Public Health Alliance for Genomic Epidemiology (PHA4GE). The Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are partners for the workshop. Participants were selected from public health laboratories that currently send samples to ACEGID for sequencing.

“Bioinformatics provides the opportunity for scientists to look into genomic data and metadata, to understand how information gleaned can shape decisions that will influence public health. If you do not have bioinformatics skills, you will not be able to make sense of the data you have. It helps public health laboratories in rapid response and in curtailing epidemics in their localities,” said Idowu Olawoye, a bioinformatician at ACEGID.

“From the experience with Covid-19 and the recent incidence of Marburg in parts of Africa, there is a need for all of us as scientists to be ready. At ACEGID, we want to build the next generation of African pathogen hunters. You know what hunters do: they hunt things down. Rather than these things (pathogens) hunting us down, we want to hunt them down. That is, we want to be able to identify them before they cause havoc, and characterize them in terms of diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and also to inform policy with respect to management, control and prevention of the diseases,” said Prof. Onikepe Folarin, the Deputy Director of ACEGID.

 “ACEGID is truly a centre of excellence. We knew their impressive track record when it comes to leadership, talent and productivity, said Dr. Emma Griffiths, Chair of the PHA4GE Data Structures Working Group. “We knew they would push the envelope in this project, from incorporating Snakemake and containerizing pipelines for scalability and reproducibility, to implementing data standards to build interoperability and better enable data harmonization. We also knew that the group is very well networked across Nigeria, which would be essential for genomic epidemiology capacity building in labs that could have direct impact on public health. The ACEGID team can think big, and act locally,” she added.

“We expect participants to be able to carry out data analysis: assemble genomes, run phylogenetic analyses and make sense of sequenced data. Even though we are focusing on SARS-CoV-2, they would be able to apply the skills to other pathogens they work on in their labs: Lassa, Ebola, etc. They will also learn how to use the PHA4GE data specification standards to submit their data to public databases,” said Paul Oluniyi, another Bioinformatician at ACEGID.

While some of the laboratories represented at the workshop already have sequencing capacity, acquiring sequencing equipment is in the horizon for others. The skills developed in the training are deployable immediately using publicly available data and from data generated by their respective laboratories. Ultimately, Nigeria’s public health system will benefit immensely from the use of skills developed through this training.

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