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March 05, 2024

EIDHS at the 2023 African Society for Laboratory Medicine Conference

by EIDHS General

The FHI 360 Emerging Infectious Diseases and Health Security (EIDHS) team and Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) would like to express our gratitude to all the presenters and participants who attended our side seminar, “Transforming Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness: Charting a Way Forward for Genomic Surveillance” during the African Society for Laboratory Medicine’s (ASLM) Conference in Cape Town in December 2023. The roundtable panel featured stakeholders from Africa Centers for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and ASLM. The session commenced with brief introductions from the panelists—including donors, industry, and national and regional entities—who provided insights on the current state of genomic surveillance and updates and innovations since the COVID-19 pandemic from their respective areas of expertise. These presentations were followed by an engaging Q&A session with active participation from audience members.

Three main questions emerged that need to be addressed by stakeholders to sustain progress and apply lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to:

  1. Sustain investments made in genomic sequencing during the COVID-19 pandemic by formulating effective models for incorporating genomic sequencing within local diagnostic networks and strategize ways to institutionalize genomic surveillance by integrating it into existing surveillance programs.
  2. Address the significant shortage in bioinformatics personnel in Africa to help local health systems process and analyze data generated from genomic sequencing in-house and use data for decision-making. Solutions must focus on retaining skilled bioinformaticians and enticing others to return to Africa after receiving training abroad.
  3. Improve the affordability and accessibility of genomic surveillance, including equipment, maintenance, and reagents, for low- and middle-income countries. This involves advocating for transparency and standardization in pricing across countries within industry.

EIDHS and CHAI are committed to ongoing collaboration with stakeholders to develop innovative solutions that address these challenges. We seek to advance genomic surveillance efforts that will ultimately strengthen health systems, enabling them to more effectively prevent, detect, and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics.