Stellenbosch University-Led Consortium Receives €5 Million EU Grant to Enhance Genomic Surveillance for Epidemics in Africa

In a significant development for public health in Africa, a Stellenbosch University-led international consortium has been awarded a substantial grant of €5 million by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP3). This grant is aimed at strengthening genomic surveillance capacity, bolstering genomic sequencing efforts, and providing comprehensive training in advanced genomic analysis and interpretation across southern and eastern Africa.

The ambitious initiative, known as Genomic Surveillance to control pathogen infections in Africa (GenPath Africa), marks a pivotal step towards enhancing public health outcomes on the continent. It holds the distinction of being the only project led by an African institution among the five international awards funded by EDCTP.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, Director of Stellenbosch University's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), expressed his enthusiasm about the grant. He highlighted its alignment with ongoing African research initiatives in Kenya and Mozambique, as well as the fruitful partnerships established with Germany and Belgium.

GenPath Africa is set to play a central role in the Africa CDC Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) and aims to efficiently manage pathogen infections across the continent. The consortium brings together a diverse group of experts in epidemiology, clinical medicine, bioinformatics, immunology, and virology, addressing critical public health challenges such as HIV-1, tuberculosis, and antimicrobial resistance in South Africa, Kenya, and Mozambique.

Furthermore, GenPath Africa will be poised to respond rapidly to epidemics driven by climate change, such as Rift Valley Fever. It will utilize a One Health approach that integrates human, animal, and environmental health. This proactive strategy includes early warning systems that involve wastewater and animal surveillance to detect emerging pathogens, in alignment with the World Health Organization's One Health principles.

The consortium comprises key partners from Stellenbosch University, the National Institute of Health of Mozambique, the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, the Global Health Institute at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and LINQ Management GmbH in Berlin, Germany.

GenPath Africa's overarching goal is to advance the work program of EDCTP3 by equipping researchers and public health professionals with essential skills in genomic epidemiology. This initiative will enhance the region's capacity to respond to epidemics and foster the development of scientific and public health leaders in Africa.

With this substantial grant, GenPath Africa is set to make substantial strides in genomic surveillance, ultimately contributing to better public health outcomes across southern and eastern Africa.


Article by Jed Mwangi