New Research Centre to find solutions to infectious diseases inaugurated

The Minister of Health has inaugurated a $250,000 new Research Centre at the University of Ghana (UG) to enable scientists to conduct research and share knowledge leading to infectious disease control solutions in West Africa.

The facility, built and fitted with state of the art equipment, is the result of an important public-private partnership between Vestergaard Frandsen, a European company working in public health, and the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research (NMIMR) at the UG, Legon.

The primary goal of this public-private partnership is to strengthen the research and development of public health tools addressing malaria and waterborne diseases.

The research facility will provide opportunities for Ghanaian researchers and academics from across West Africa to visit Ghana’s premier university and join arms in the fight against infectious diseases, Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh said.

“The new Research Centre is an excellent demonstration of a public-private partnership that will not only progress the science of public health and build capacity, but also help tackle the many diseases that affect us,” he stressed.

He said the new facility presents significant opportunity to researchers in the sub-region to lead in the fight against infectious diseases, particularly malaria.

The Health Minister expressed the hope that the singular act of Vestegrad Fransen would motivate other companies to partner the University to expand research facilities and encourage researchers to do more to make NMIMR, a regional hub for research into infectious diseases in the West African sub-region.

The two-storey Research Centre contains insectaries housing three mosquito and one fly colony, two large bioassay laboratories for conducting standard tests such as those developed by the World Health Organisation and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new molecular biology lab will assist in providing a wide range of tests from identifying mosquito species to characterising the type of insecticide resistance present.

By studying the fly colonies, scientists will hopefully be able to develop next-generation tools to better protect food crops from the time they leave the farms to when they arrive at food distribution warehouses.

The University’s Department of Parasitology will share the facility to conduct its own malaria control research.

The Ghanaian National Malaria Control Programme will use the new Research Centre to test the durability of existing bed nets, new long-lasting insecticidal bed nets, and conduct research on the efficacy of novel pesticides for malaria control.

The facility will also house a water research laboratory where technicians will test prototype water purification systems that prevent diarrhoeal and other waterborne diseases. Both laboratory and field research will be performed at the Research Centre, and results will be published in peer-reviewed journals.

“We are honoured to partner with the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research at the University of Ghana to support mutually beneficial research and development of tools to fight infectious diseases in West Africa,” said Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Vestergaard Frandsen.

“Together we can improve the health of Ghanaians and all West Africans by increasing knowledge and creating next generation tools to fight disease,” he said.

Mr Frandsen said the partnership presented the company the opportunity to invest more because “we see Noguchi as a successful platform to use in the fight against infectious diseases”.

The new facility will be used to enhance the training mandate of the UGs School of Public Health, allowing students to conduct undergraduate and graduate-level research under the supervision of esteemed professors from NMIMR.

By investing in capacity building, the Research Centre will help train the next generation of West African entomologists to better address the increasingly complex field of malaria research.

The Centre will also be a base for continuing education for scientists from across the West African Region.

Experts will come from abroad to share knowledge, and receive additional training. Most knowledge sharing programmes will be led by scientists from NMIMR and the School of Public Health.

Small workshops will be held at the Research Centre on critical findings that will allow for rapid dissemination of knowledge to the public health community in Ghana and the Region.

Professors, students and researchers from the U G will use these forums to share ideas on disease control and test them using the tools available at the Research Centre.

Many of these ideas may be translated into programmes and/or tools that government agencies and non-governmental organisations can use to control infectious diseases in Africa and beyond.

Dr Leticia Obeng, Former President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, who was the Guest Speaker called for environmental cleanliness to keep infectious diseases at bay.

Source: GNA

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