MTN Partners with NIMR for Oligo-Synthesis Lab

MTN Partners with NIMR for Oligo-Synthesis Lab

The on-going pandemic has made it imperative for nations to be self-sufficient in the design, development, and deployment of reliable testing kits to respond effectively and timely in any outbreak situation. Recently a third wave of the pandemic was declared in Nigeria and a more virulence strain of the virus named Delta strain has already resulted in the death of many.

Despite having highly skilled manpower and innovative scientists who can design oligonucleotides for various nucleic acid testing platforms, the whole of West Africa largely depends on the help of foreign companies to help synthesize designed oligonucleotides. This process which ideally shouldn’t be more than 24 hours take a minimum of 14 days coupled with other challenges of logistics to have them received in Nigeria.

More so, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to have oligo synthesis due to increased demands for these macromolecules by various countries to make the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese approved real time PCR detection protocols. The current COVID-19 kit supported by WHO and adopted by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was a rapid development in Europe and it was in part supported by the oligo synthesis facility in Berlin. The China outbreak detection kit was also greatly supported by the oligo synthesis ability of the Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI), which enabled them to be self-sufficient in the making of the outbreak kits.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as MTN Nigeria’s contributions to strengthening the health system particularly research institutions, MTN is collaborating with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in establishing an Oligosynthesiser laboratory. The commissioning of the landmark laboratory touted to be the first functional oligosynthesiser in West Africa is schedule to hold as detailed below.

Venue: NIMR Auditorium, 6, Edmund Crescent, Yaba, Lagos State

Date: Friday, August 13, 2021

Time: 11 am

The Oligo-Synthesizer is an equipment that allows for the local development of primers for the indigenous production of test kits for COVID-19 and other outbreak diseases. Utilised to its full potential, the lab will contribute significantly to the quality of Medical research and development in Nigeria and West Africa.

This intervention is a partnership between MTNN, the Federal Ministry of Health and NIMR. The project scope covers the supply of complete accessories for the Oligo-synthesiser and two years’ worth of reagents. In addition, the provision of support and maintenance services for the equipment and accessories for a period of one year and training of the technical staff of NIMR. It is envisaged that this partnership will go a long way in moving NIMR closer to its main objective which is to conduct research into diseases of public health importance in Nigeria as well as develop structures for the dissemination of research findings while providing the enabling environment and facilities for health care research and training.

The oligosynthesiser and its accessories has capacity to produce 48 primers in one run. The establishment of the lab will drastically reduce the cost of COVID-19 pandemic response by making test kits cheaper to produce, save lives through timely and affordable testing and build local capacity in this area. The provision of the Oligosynthesizing machine in the Nigerian Institute of Medical research would further assist the nation in:

1. designing, synthesizing, and validating oligonucleotides needed for the detection of pathogens or mutations that can be rapidly adapted to outbreak kits.

2. ensuring flexibility in the iteration of test kits in the event of changes in the nucleotide sequence of the outbreak pathogen which may lead to false negatives even when the suspected case is showing classical clinical symptoms.

3. providing security in the adequacy of test kits.

4. making Nigeria a regional hub in West Africa for the synthesis of oligos for downstream applications for other healthcare/life science institutions.