The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has established a new bespoke laboratory platform to contain future pandemics.
The new facility is based at the KEMRI headquarters in Nairobi.
The facility’s establishment involved procuring two state-of-art DNA sequencing machines with the capacity to identify pathogens responsible for epidemics within a few hours.
There was the procurement of another state-of-art precision machine that can synthesize short strands of DNA (also known as primers) that are complementary to some part of the pathogen genetic material sequences, which have previously been obtained from the sequencers mentioned above.
These primers and other general reagents are used to develop PCR test kits.
Further, the technical staff was trained to use this new platform to develop diagnostic solutions.
The laboratory will be used for research in new and re-emerging pandemics and outbreak containment.
It can develop rapid diagnostic solutions not just for Kenya and the East African region but also for the entire African continent.
“The assembled infrastructure, a robust highly automated DNA Synthesizer and a NextGeneration sequencer fully financed by the Government of Kenya through the KEMRI Internal Research Grants will now be used in the development of molecular diagnostic kits including (but not limited to) PCR, Rapid Test Kits (or Immunochromatographic) and Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), as well as detection and characterization of DNA for any emerging or re-emerging infections,” KEMRI said in a statement.
Besides providing a platform for the rapid development of diagnostic kits in case of national epidemics, the laboratory is expected to promote and enhance quick outputs in biomedical research in the country and regionally.
Currently, it takes between one and four weeks for biomedical researchers to procure primers for their research.
“This platform will be able to provide these primers within one to five days, at a minimal cost that will be used to maintain the equipment. The synthesizer will also promote local research in the development of vaccines and chemicals that promote their activities (adjuvants). It will also support research in the development of medicines to treat some cancers.”
Additionally, the facility is expected to help the country better prepare for any likely emerging and reemerging infections.
The availability of this diagnostic platform will make it possible for the country to quickly develop diagnostics specific to the emerging mutations, which often have to wait for the international response that may not even happen hence exposing the nation to health insecurity.