Earlier this month, the African Union Commission launched the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). This is pioneering initiative is set to tackle infectious diseases across Africa and expand research access to next generation genomic sequencing tools and expertise. The aim of Africa PGI is to strengthen laboratory networks and public health surveillance with genomic and genetic expertise, and inform disease prevention and control across Africa.
Africa PGI is already contributing its genomic expertise to surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 within Africa, sequencing and contributing African data to the global disease databases, ensuring that vaccines will be suitable for use on the African continent. The initiative’s swift and effective response to the pandemic is demonstrating the value of an extensive pathogen genomics capacity in Africa.
This initiative cannot be delivered by one organisation alone, and partners in this US$100 million public-private not-for-profit initiative include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, US CDC, Microsoft, Illumina, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies. Equally important to the success of the initiative are the malaria control decision-makers – public health officials and ministers – who Africa PGI will work with to understand how genomics might influence evidence-based policy.
This ambitious initiative has already put into place many of the building blocks that could enable it to become a leader in the field of pathogen genomics. Despite the challenges, there is huge potential to improve health across the continent and the Africa PGI is well placed to demonstrate to the rest of the world how pathogen genomics can best be used for public health.