University of Ghana's NMIMR Leads PANGenS Consortium to Enhance Africa's Genomic Epidemiology Capacity

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) at the University of Ghana is at the forefront of a collaborative effort aimed at bolstering Africa's capacity in genomic epidemiology. Together with the Research Center Borstel (FZB) in Germany, NMIMR is co-leading the Pan-Africa Network for Genomic Surveillance of Poverty-Related Diseases and Emerging Pathogens (PANGenS) project.

Spanning four years, PANGenS aims to increase Africa’s capacity in genomic epidemiology and conduct surveillance of drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria across 12 African countries. The project's focus includes understanding the epidemiology of tuberculosis, malaria and emerging pathogens to inform better disease control strategies.

To advance the implementation of the project, NMIMR recently hosted a four-day meeting with participants from 15 countries, including 12 in Africa and three in Europe. The meeting focused on developing tools and building capacity for effective surveillance of endemic poverty-related diseases and emerging pathogens.

During the event, Prof. Felix Ankomah Asante, Pro Vice-Chancellor responsible for Research, Innovation, and Development, who chaired the opening session of the meeting, stressed the importance of consortiums like PANGenS in driving scientific research outcomes that positively impact public health in Africa.

Prof. Felix Ankomah Asante, Pro Vice-Chancellor, RID

He pledged the University's support to the network, underscoring the alignment of the project's focus with the university's goal of providing solutions to pressing health problems.

The Director of NMIMR and co-coordinator for the project, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, described the Institute's extensive contributions to malaria research and control efforts in Ghana. She emphasised NMIMR's pivotal role in the malaria prevention programme in Ghana and the wider West African Region.

Director of NMIMR and co-coordinator for the project, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu

Prof. Stefan Nieman, a visiting professor from the University of Namibia, provided an overview of the project, highlighting the global significance of tuberculosis and malaria as major contributors to overall mortality. He reiterated the need for capacity building through engagement of Post-docs, on-site workshops and development of free training virtual materials.

Prof. Stefan Nieman

Dr. Rita Patricia Frimpong-Mansoh, Deputy Programme Manager at the National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP), discussed collaborations between the programme and NMIMR to develop strategies to curb TB infections and provide preventive treatment. She highlighted the use of genomic sequencing to determine appropriate treatment doses.

A Bioinformatics Implementation Expert with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Gerald Mboowa, expressed gratitude for the leadership of Prof. Yeboah-Manu and Prof. Nieman and commended the progress made since the project's initiation.

Dr. Sally-Ann Ohene, Disease Prevention and Control Officer at the World Health Organisation country office in Ghana, reiterated the importance of emergency preparedness and commended the efforts of the PANGenS project in addressing malaria and tuberculosis.

Some participants at the opening session 

This collaborative effort, involving several institutions across Africa and Europe, is poised to revolutionise genomic surveillance and epidemiology, particularly in the context of infectious diseases.

The consortium includes prominent organisations such as KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Instituto Nacional de Saúde, Ifakara Health Institute, University of Namibia, National Institute of Medical Research and others, collectively contributing to Africa's capacity-building efforts in genomic epidemiology.