An early Christmas present for Open Bioeconomy Lab has come in the form of funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund to develop a proof-of-principle DNA-based typhoid diagnostic using cutting-edge molecular techniques with partners in Cameroon. We are aiming to develop a locally manufacturable diagnostic tool that is capable of distinguishing typhoid fever from paratyphoidand has areagent cost of < $1 per reaction.
For this we are partnering with colleagues at Buea University and MboaLab Biotech in a two-way exchange based on our respective strengths. PI Dr Jenny Molloy and Co-I Dr Jim Ajioka, both based at the University of Cambridge, have expertise in protein purification, molecular diagnostics, cell-free protein expression; while Co-I’s Dr Tobias Apinjoh and Mr Mboa have expertise in infectious disease epidemiology and immunology, drug-resistance surveillance, molecular biology, knowledge of local stakeholders and healthcare system. In addition we are growing the teams with two full time researchers based in Cambridge and Yaounde and we welcome back Minette Shalo as a Masters student on the project, following her three month internship with MboaLab in 2019.
Understanding the social impact of typhoid diagnosis
In addition to experimental research, MboaLab & Buea University will lead an engagement exercise interviewing local stakeholders to understand the requirements for diagnosing typhoid and pathways to impact within the local health system. This will include adoption and use of molecular diagnostics within local hospitals, local policies to build capacity in public and private diagnostics laboratories.
We hope that the novel partnership between MboaLab and the University of Buea will promote new modes of institutional collaboration and partnership in Cameroon and demonstrate the efficacy of community-based innovation hubs and academic institutions combining strengths to address sustainable development goals in resource-limited environments.
Accessible protocols and training as a platform for new diagnostic tools
In addition to developing a typhoid diagnostics, we will develop accessible protocols in English and French for expressing, purifying and handling Cas12 using local resource as a diagnostic platform for other diseases where the same techniques can be used to provide solutions for health care. Through on-going training opportunities at MboaLab and local universities combined with availability of reagents trough MboaLab, local researchers and laboratory workers will become skilled in techniques they can continue to develop professionally.
The project will run from February to July 2020 and you can follow progress on our social media and the website.