EXPANDIA: Expanding Access to Sustainable Diagnostics in Africa

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Summary

EXPANDIA is the natural extension of the activities performed by the African laboratory network during consecutive COVID-19 and COVID19+ projects with respect to testing and transferring cost-effective technologies suited to the needs of diagnostic laboratories operating at point of care level.

Some critical elements that the project is attempting to accommodate include: (i) the weakness of supply chains, which limits the rapid access by reference laboratories to reagents and critical equipment for diagnostic and surveillance of diseases; (ii) the lack of in-country local manufacturing capabilities for reagents and/or diagnostic assays; (iii) a fragmented regulatory landscape, especially with respect to the authorisation of laboratory diagnostic tests (LDT) in Africa.

EXPANDIA addresses these by utilising recently adopted technology transfer approaches with respect to rapid scale-up and introduction of novel and tailored diagnostics and involving a network of experts to create suitable sustainable approaches to establish local manufacturing. The network established under the previously funded projects and involving multiple actors, such as technology owners, regulatory consultants, African reference laboratories and the ICGEB scientific teams, allows to perform technology transfer in different modalities according to the needs of end-users. In this way, the network adopts light touch approaches, where technologies and protocols are either transferred from tech owners to end users following a downstream approach or are optimized by means of shared R&D processes and transferred according to the needs and priorities of end users.

Activities

Multiple activities will concur to achieve the main objective, which is to strengthen the diagnostic and surveillance capacities of Public Health systems across sub-Saharan Africa, namely:

  • Scouting and testing of commercial or near market level tests produced in middle income countries, e.g. India, and transfer to Sub-Saharan-Africa for field trial and validation
  • Testing and roll-out of specific In vitro Diagnostics (IVDs), Research Use Only (RUO) tests or LDT for the detection of arboviruses.
  • Establishment of local production of reagents through in-house protein purification and master mix lyophilization to use for diagnostic purposes.
  • Expansion of genomic sequencing capacities by establishing and transferring to Sub-Saharan-African reference laboratories new protocols for the sequencing of endemic diseases.
  • Development of a decision tool to guide African reference laboratories in selecting optimal diagnostic testing modalities for specific use-cases, tailored to their local context resources and clinical needs.

Donor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Partners

Technology providers based in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: TBD

Reference laboratories in Sub-Saharan-Africa as responsible of technology testing and technology promotors at country level:

INAAREES – Angola; IRSS-NIRLS – Burkina Faso; CIRCB – Cameroon; Pasteur Institut Cote d’Ivoire – Ivory Coast; BETin – Ethiopia; KEMRI – Kenya; UMTH – Nigeria; IRESSEF – Senegal; NMRL – Zimbabwe.

Activity coordinators at ICGEB

  • Molecular Virology – Scouting and testing IVD/RUO/LDT technologies for the detection of arboviruses.
  • Biomanufacturing – Establishment of protocols for local production of reagents to use for diagnostic purposes.
  • Emerging Viruses – Establishment and transfer of protocols for sequencing arboviruses with ONT MinION.
  • Regulatory Science – Supporting African reference laboratories in the selection and regulatory approval of optimal diagnostic technologies.

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