Africa has taken a giant step toward developing its own Covid-19 vaccine with the presentation of an $800,000 sequencing equipment to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana.

This equipment will help in identifying the various genomes of the virus in Ghana, to help give the Africa CDC a fair idea of the number of possible variants of the virus that may be on the continent to lead us to develop the right vaccines for COVID-19.

Speaking in an interview with Joy News on the sidelines of the presentation ceremony, the Program Lead for Pathogen Genomics at the Africa CDC, Dr Sofonias Tessema explained how close we are to developing our own Covid-19 vaccines with the donation of this equipment.

“This will take us one step closer to understanding our pathogens in the design of diagnostics vaccines and therapeutics.

“In order to design a vaccine, we need to know what pathogens we have, and the sequencing actually gives us the capacity to know what kind of pathogens we have. So this is part of the vaccine development process,” he explained.

He revealed that with reliance on the capacity of African research centres, the Africa CDC has been able to increase the number of sequencing that the continent had done on the virus since the outbreak.

“In our network, the University of Ghana Medical Research Institute is a regional sequencing centre designed to support Ghana and five other countries in the region. So with this approach, we were able to increase the sequencing output across the continent.

“In 2020, we had only 5000 sequences; now we almost 100,000 sequences in Africa. This increase actually came through the continental network which leveraged the capacity that existed in institutions like Noguchi and expand that capacity,” he stated.

The Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Research, Prof Dorothy Yeboah-Manu said the equipment will boost the Covid-19 research capacity of the facility.

“With the COVID, everybody has an understanding of variance, mutations and variants of concern, and we cannot wait for the virus to take us unaware.

“So what is required is for us to routinely continue to survey for new variants, and this machine is going to give us that opportunity such that NOGUCHI now has the capacity to sequence 2000 genomes in a week. This is very crucial,” she stated.