Lagos to weigh Nigeria’s future in genomics, vaccine development

The Lagos State Government will weigh Nigeria’s future in genomic surveillance and vaccine development at the seventh ‘Annual African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity’ billed for Wednesday, October 27 to 29.

This comes as part of the effort to ensure that the Africa continent improves on its preparedness for emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity threats.

In partnership with Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET), a not-for-profit organisation, the conference will explore how Africa can develop a biosecurity road map and increase resilience towards building the capacity to deal with pathogens of high consequence, Akin Abayomi, the state commissioner for Health, said in an official statement on Wednesday.

The conference themed “Universal Approach to Addressing Biosecurity Threats – Genomic Intelligence and Vaccines” holds at the Civic Centre, Lagos.

The commissioner said the need to emphasise the importance of Africa’s response in combating emerging infectious diseases, providing treatment strategies and preparation against future biosecurity threats informed the conference.

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“In recognition that a mega city like Lagos is very vulnerable to contagious diseases, GET has been collaborating with government agencies, hosting the biosecurity conferences,” Abayomi said.

“In 2019 this conference was hosted in Abuja, last year we had the conference in Lagos and this year we are having it again in Lagos and that’s an indication of how serious Lagos State is taking preparation for biosecurity threats.”

Genomic intelligence focuses on analysing the genetic makeup of diseases that causes a widespread outbreak.

The Commissioner said the Lagos State Government has equipped the Lagos State biobank with advanced technology including a sequencer, such that the State can sequence the COVID-19 virus in the light of the multiple waves being experienced.

“We want to understand how the virus is changing. We have heard about the Delta, Alpha, Delta plus variants and so many other variants that are emerging out of this pandemic. It is critically important that we understand these variants that are arriving in Lagos and Nigeria through our airports, it is equally important that we know how the virus is transmitted through the community and how it is changing itself,” he said.

Ayodotun Bobadoye, the chief operating officer, GET Consortium, explained that participants at the conference which will hold both virtually and physically will include policymakers, scientists, researchers, health care professionals and experts in infectious disease management within and outside the continent.

Lead speakers include Hillary Beckles, vice-chancellor, The University of the West Indies; Charles Wiysonge, epidemiologist and vaccinologist, South African Cochrane Centre, South Africa; Christian Happi, professor of molecular biology and genomics, Redeemers’ University, Ede, Nigeria; Vallierie Matthieu, global medical affairs lead, Vaccines Janssen Vaccines & Prevention, Netherlands; and Sam Ujewe, senior research ethics advisor, Canadian Institutes of Health Research among others.

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