Oxford Nanopore, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other partners collaborate to transform disease surveillance in Africa

  • Oxford Nanopore, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US CDC, Microsoft and Illumina collaborate with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to launch Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI)
  • $100 million four-year initiative will rapidly expand access to next-generation genomic sequencing tools and strengthen public health surveillance networks across Africa
  • Oxford Nanopore will collaborate with Africa CDC and National Public Health Institutes (NPHI) to co-develop real time, portable sequencing-based solutions to tackle major infectious disease threats facing African nations, and provide equipment and reagents in support of this goal

Oxford Nanopore is delighted to today announce its collaboration with Africa CDC and other leading industry partners to launch the new Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative. The initiative will build a disease surveillance and laboratory network based on genomic sequencing across Africa, including capacity building in 20+ countries. This network will not only help identify and inform research and public health responses to COVID-19 and other epidemic threats, but also tackle endemic diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria,  cholera and other infectious diseases.

As a key partner in the initiative, Oxford Nanopore will develop real time, portable sequencing solutions to tackle priority public health challenges. Oxford Nanopore will expand its ongoing commitment to provide equipment, reagent and training support to the NPHIs through its partnership with Africa CDC.

Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology has been supplied and used extensively in rapid pathogen surveillance across a number of centres, to understand the epidemiology of outbreaks including Ebola, Zika, Lassa and Yellow fever, and most recently it has also been used worldwide in the surveillance of COVID-19.

The palm-sized MinION device has been a key tool in outbreak surveillance; the ability to deliver sequencing technology into distributed, ‘in-community’ settings, including in resource-limited environments, means that results can be generated and acted on in the location that they are needed most.

Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore commented:

“We’re honoured to work with so many visionary partners on this project, to ensure that the vital public health insights delivered by pathogen genomics can be generated in the heart of the communities who need it most.”

“Our goal at Oxford Nanopore is to create products that empower scientists to tackle the most urgent challenges facing our societies.  We are proud to partner with the Africa CDC in their mission to create the Africa PGI, and with leading African public health institutions to focus the power of our real time, portable genomics platform on the public health challenges they have identified as their priorities. This programme marks a big step in the fight against infectious disease.”

Building on previous, sustainable capacity-building for pathogen surveillance

This announcement builds upon a collaboration from earlier in 2020 between Africa CDC and Oxford Nanopore, to enable the rapid scaleup of COVID-19 genomic epidemiology across Africa through a continent-wide training programme.

The COVID-19 programme focused on developing and training National Public Health labs in Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as supporting an emergent network of academic labs in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Ghana, Angola and Sudan. The goal was to ensure that infrastructure and skills in this network of labs can provide rapid, extensive genomic epidemiological analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as providing sustainable capacity for future investigations into other pathogens.

There are currently users of Oxford Nanopore devices in more than 100 countries around the world, initiatives like the PGI and the Africa CDC COVID-19 programme are enabling use to grow further in countries that previously couldn't access sequencing technologies.

Read Africa CDC announcement.