Scaling innovations through partnerships

AHRI and EPHI kicks off the SUPER project

By Jonathan Ecubay

The Armauer Hansen Research Institute /AHRI/ and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute /EPHI/ collaboratively launched the SUPER project on November 12, 2021.
The SUPER project which is an acronym for Scaling Up Pathogen Genomic Sequencing for Epidemic Response in Ethiopia (SUPER) secured a grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under the Global Grand Challenges and is set to run till August 31, 2022.
“Your presence here is a powerful testament to our collective desire to see positive change through an effective and progressive response to the project to advance science, technology, and innovation for a better understanding of genomic sequencing of SARS-C0V-2 both in Ethiopia and around the world,” remarked Dr. Getachew Tollera, Deputy Director General of EPHI whilst addressing researchers of both AHRI and EPHI at the launching workshop.
It is to be recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges for Africa, with every country potentially at risk for unmitigated spread of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants is further raising concerns of the possibility of re-infection among those previously infected with the ‘wild type’ virus. To this end, Dr. Atsbeha Gebreegziabxier, Principal Investigator of the SUPER project explained that the research will boost the country’s sequencing capacity to establish routine SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance and monitor the emergence and impact of new variants to better inform public policy.
“It is a great pleasure for AHRI to partner with EPHI and promote regional based partnerships which will greatly contribute in public health emergency response and intervention. We look forward to have an open data sharing between both institutes as well as share our genomic capacity facilities for the success of this project,” stated Dr. Alemseged Abdissa, AHRI-Deputy Director General.
Over 1,000 SARS-CoV-2 positive samples is set to be collected across 14 hospitals and laboratories over a period of ten months which will be subjected to next generation sequencing and bioinformatics analyses to identify any new variants. During the course of the project the efficacy of existing diagnostic assays for detecting these different variants will be tested. New genomic data will be promptly uploaded to public repositories, and a web-based platform will be developed to rapidly communicate research findings to relevant stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, so that results can be readily translated into public health policy.
Dr. Andargachew Mulu, senior scientist at AHRI explained that the project will be important in evidence generation, synthesis, transfer and implementation. Furthermore, he elaborated that it will it will go a long way in building the capacity of both institutes through short and long term trainings as well as promoting knowledge and technology transfer.

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